If you have grown up in India, then chances are that you must have had a brush with this massive thick, brightly coloured fabric from Nagaland. This was thanks to the multiple ‘Army families’ that were living in close vicinity to our home and of course, a lot of them had postings in Nagaland, implying they had a house full of goodies from that beautiful part of the country, included the beautiful, warm red, black and blue shawl! That was where my love for these beautiful warm fabrics started and later when a close family member was married into an ‘Army’ family, I got blessed with one of my own 🙂 . I have seen people use it in a myriad ways – place it below you bedspread and stay warm, or get a jacket/ kurta made with a naga shawl and feel warm and fuzzy. Well, apparently, these large shawls are worn by men, but I say, what’s wrong with a woman draping it? So, wear one and wave goodbye to the winter chill…
I have always known the Naga shawls to be bright red and black and sometimes yellow with a bit of blue thrown in. The designs are known to be typically linear and fairly geometric, as this is what can be created most easily because of the fabric used. Some tribes are known to weave three different pieces, which is then later joined to make one big shawl. Weaving, of course is a time-consuming process and it could take over ten hours per piece, even for an expert!
There are some typical patterns associated with each of the tribes, including the use of colours simply because all the tribes have different traditions and going back in time, each of these tribes, based on their ‘class‘ were allowed to wear only one particular kind of shawl, to reflect their position in the society. Take the example of the tribal group Ao, where the shawl they weaved was allowed to be draped only by those who had actually been part of a war; was called the ‘Tsungkotepsu’ and was rightfully referred to as the ‘warrior shawl’. Have you come across ‘Chizami Weaves’? Chizami, a town in Nagaland use the back strap loom and is absolutely stunning too. Get one, if you can. I read this wonderful article called Woven Stories about Naga shawls…very interesting and informative. To quote from this article, “In the textile history of India, the warrior shawls of Nagaland have a special place and like their counterpart, the Scottish kilt, these too need to be nurtured as a legacy. We have 16 major tribes in Nagaland and the warrior shawls of each vary a lot.”
A lot of designers are creating a mix of contemporary and traditional wear. One such designer is Atsu Sekhose, a graudate of NIFT, who has created patterns based on the different Naga tribes like Ao, Sema, Lotha and several others and has his own label called ‘Atsu‘.
Let’s have a look at what we can find for our wardrobes with the bright and colourful weaves…
So, what takes your fancy? A jacket, or some of these colourful stripes in your kurta? Apart from keeping you warm, they will brighten up those dull and very cold winter days and evening.
If you’re looking to get your hands on an authentic piece, you could get one from the Nagaland Emporium, Nagaland stall at Dilli Haat, Giskaa or just ask one of your friends in the Indian army to get you a vibrant red, warm Nagaland shawl.
Cover Image: via