The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript tour diary of W.G. Archer, S.D.O. Mokokchung 1947

caption: visit to Nerhema
caption: memorial to head-takers
medium: tours
keywords: seche
person: Devore Angami/ of NerhemaPeze Angami/ of NerhemaRudai
location: Nerhema
date: 24.1.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 31.12.1946-14.2.1947
text: 24th January
text: This afternoon I went by jeep to Nerhema. On the way was a wooden sledge which is used for hauling monoliths and grave stones while several hill sides had rows of poles. I noticed a novel type of scarecrow. A rope is strung between two bamboo poles and tattered handfuls of creeper are tied in the intervals along it. As the line shakes in the wind the dried leaves flutter.
text: We reached the bungalow at 4 p.m. and after moving in, I went for a walk in the village. Just above the outhouses are rows of stone terraces and at the top some great walls look out across an enormous view. The walls flank a village entrance and the Khel will shortly be installing a new gate at the coming sekrengi festival. They expect to be choosing a tree in the next few days.
text: (34) At the foot of the terraces is a memorial to a head-hunter and the tall wooden effigies looked even more mysterious and sinister in the evening light. The figure which is called 'Seche' in Angami was erected two years ago in the name of Devore Angami but the man himself had died a great while before.
text: When the figure is first erected it is clothed in ceremonial garb but the rains wear the cloth away and after a year only a few scraps of sodden dress remain; the wood also bleached and the figure rises from its site with a ghostly ashen pallor.
text: Two similar figures also exist in the village and I walked a mile up the road in order to inspect one. This latter figure was also put up two years ago in the name of Peze Angami and was occasioned by similar circumstances. There was a head hunter's bear skin cap on the head and bedraggled clothes on the body. The seeds of wild job's tears were used as teeth and there is also a cowrie belt at the waist. The site is surrounded by a bamboo fence and is overgrown with weeds. These can be cleared only in December - in the brief interval between harvesting the rice crop and sowing the first millet. At other times when crops are growing it is completely genna to tidy even a grave or the site of an image. Like the other figure this effigy also had a strange imposing dignity. Its long vertical nose, its slit eyes, its angular squared (35) shoulders, its long vertical arms - combined to make it strangely reminiscent of cycladic (sic) sculpture.
text: A little to the west of the site was a huge structure of wooden stakes and swaying bamboo poles. A row of stakes measuring about twenty feet in length is linked along the top with a horizontal beam. About a dozen bamboos are then set up six or more feet to the rear and they are then pressed down so that their slim lengths rest on the beam and project far out above it. A long tube of bamboo basket work - one or two feet in diameter and more than twenty feet in length - lay sagging on the top. I was told that this whole erection was part of the warrior's memorial and the slack crouching tube was representative of a tiger.
text: Like Chezubama, Nerhema seems the only village for ten miles which still possesses these funerary figures. Rudai, whom I asked, says that his own village formerly had such figures but now-a-days they have all decayed and he has seen no others anywhere else. The gaonburas of Nerhema also do not know of any others.