Origin: The wood carvers of Nagaland find their roots buried in the animistic past of Nagaland. Most of the classic wood–carved motifs were abstractions of animal forms defining the significant aspects of their animistic tradition. The architecture and rituals embraced by the 17 major Naga tribes give glimpses of the past of wood carving. Historically, only the men had rights to this craft.
Every household was a testimonial of this craft. This craft can be demarcated under three compartments - headhunting, decoration of the Morungs (mans communal houses) and funerary images.
Traditional kitchen, tableware and furniture etc. speak volumes of symbolic motifs and designs associated with this art. Each motif is a symbol for example sculpted heads mean fertility. The other common animal motifs were bison heads, tigers, elephants, snakes, hornbills, barbets, lizards and monkeys were symbolic of valour, fertility and power or strength etc.
Present Day: A gorgeous wooden carving stands like an explanation mark at the entrance of every village. A wooden carving on the entrance of a house hints that it is inhabited by a warrior or high status family.
Till date, carvings of human figures, animals are the famous carvings pregnant with individual messages. The mithun carving represents wealth; animal figures signify physical strength. Even today, the tribes of Wanchos, Phom and Konyaks are popular for their carving skill that runs in their genes.
The symbolic wooden work has won international laurels. Tourists visit Nagaland only to buy these pieces of cultural heritage. A major source of Nagaland’s revenue comes from the wood carving industry. This spiritual craft has strengthened the economic base of the state.
In Konyak area, certain carvings carry the characteristics of Khajuraho. Striking motifs depict a dancing couple in a passionate posture. The state government of Nagaland is engaged in several steps to enhance the traditional industry of wood carving.
Process: Traditional instruments such as adze, chisel, dao and axe are put into play to create unique pieced of wood work. All these tools are locally made. The best wood –carvers, Konyak tribe, use the log-drums that are hollowed out of a big tree trunk.
Earlier, huge hollock or hollong tree trunk was used. Now, the artisans prefer using teak or for smaller pieces gamari soft wood is used.
First step is to trace the drawing onto the wood. Post this, chisel is hammered at a particular angle to scoop out chips. The sculpting action gives relief work on a flat plant. Today, advanced hand and machine tools and techniques have stepped into this industry.
Bring Home Wood Carving of Nagaland: Stop by at the emporiums to purchase these heritage symbols.