The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes made by W.G. Archer between 1946 & 1948, and miscellaneous papers and letters

caption: Ao poetry
caption: gate, morung and log drum at Mongsenyimti village
medium: notes
keywords: educationcustomschristianity
location: Mokokchung Mongsenyimti
date: 6.2.1947-7.2.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 12:22
text: 6th February. Yesterday Mr [] the Headmaster of the Ao M.E. School at Mokokchung came to see me. Like educated Uraons and Santals he is anxious to see Ao poetry collected - arguing that Ao Christians are now sufficiently tough-minded that they can value their tribal poetry independantly of its content. Ao poetry it seems employs similar symbolism to Uraon. 'The girl has been carried off by a wild animal' is the Ao way of expressing marriage by capture. Uraons would say it in much the same way. Formerly poetry was used as a way of intimating village decisions. Some old men of the village would go to another village. One of them would then sing a short and highly oblique song. After that and without saying anything more, they would come away. For this reason many old tribal songs are records of historic facts and if a song can be quoted it is even now regarded as conclusive proof of custom.
text: Today I went to Mongsenyimti (14 miles). The path goes through Mokokchung itself and on the crest of the hill I inspected a boys' morung. The building is in good repair and inside were the ashes of three fires. I was told that the boys slept there once a week. In the middle of the house and used as a partition, was an old village gate (Kokokchuas gate). It possessed a single substantial carving of two mithan heads - one the right way up and the other upside down. The gate is kept in the morung 'because nowadays there are no longer any foes'. The front of the house consists of a tall strip of plaited bamboo with a painting in black representing a shield. A few yards off is a built-up stone platform 'where the village meets' and a little to the east is a shed with an old log drum. The log drum is not unlike a large dug-out canoe.