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: carving a new village gate at Kohima
medium: notes
person: Tsotonoma khel
location: Kohima
date: 25.2.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 12:42
text: 25th February.
text: It began at midday - 20-30 men gathered - the gate was moved onto level ground - and the work started - the great spreading mithan horns and the warrior had been roughly carved in the forest. First 4 and a little later 6 men all began work on the plank together - while the others stood or sat around - there was no leader and it was as if everyone had the same idea of how the gate should be cut. Sometimes a point was discussed or someone intervened or pointed with a finger - otherwise the work went automatically on. In the first stage the rough forms were levelled down with a tool like an adze - the surface being hacked away in long parallel lines. It is this which gives the mithan horns one of their most beautiful effects. As the pick-axe clears the wood it leaves a line on either side - and these lines form a mass of branching curves. Some of the shaping is done by slicing with a dao - while for giving an edge an axe is used - for finer lines the wood is chipped away by hammering on a chisel or a finely tapered wedge. Although the blows are given with great swiftness, there is at the same time a remarkable deftness and precission in all the cutting. Everyone was in complete command of his tools. Occasionally a line was marked in pencil to guide the cutting. In every sense a collective act. Altogether 15-20 men at various times did cutting - the basic pattern was cut in the forest - without a model - obviously a keen visual memory - a clear common conception of the final carving - only members of the Khel did the cutting - a Khel act. (No puja or rites to start it.)