The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

letter from J.H. Hutton to Henry Balfour

caption: Rengma cloth; lizard design; hats and hornbill feathers; photos for Sema book; prospective visit of the Prince of Wales
medium: letters
person: Balfour/ HenryAnnandale
ethnicgroup: Rengma
location: Tseminyu (Themokedima) Insinyu (Insuma) Tesophenyu (Tesifima)
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 12.6.1920
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: J.P. Mills Box (not numbered)
text: Kohima,
text: 12/6/1920
text: Dear Mr Balfour,
text: I sent you, the other day, a Rengma cloth made in Themokedi village, and I now send a letter I had last year from Annandale describing a Rengma cloth now in the Indian Museum - photographs of which I left with you, I think. Yesterday I found Mills had had an old cloth obtained from a Lhota but made by a Rengma (from Tesifima village) with a similar by slightly different end. I have induced him, I think, to send it to you as well.
text: In the designs on the cloth I sent the other day the figure at the end thus: SKETCH represent the sand lizard, 'nyezo', but why it is shown on the head-taker's cloth is not known. The Phoms however and some Changs tattoo 'lizards' on the chests of head takers and engrave it on their daos, the design being, however, rather different, more like this: SKETCH (I reproduce it from memory).
text: The design on the Rengma cloth I sent that looks like this: SKETCH (it is at the top of some of the figures where others wear what seem to be hornbill feathers) represents 'A' an enemies head and 'B' hair ear ornament such as those worn by Angamis in their ears. Such at least is the Rengma account, but the design strongly suggests to me the horned and hair fringed hats worn in the Angami tribe by old veterans with many exploits to their credit instead of the plain hornbill feathers worn by younger warriors which I think are represented by this sort of thing: SKETCH on the other figures. The Changs and Konyaks and Phoms also wear horned hats and I fancy other tribes have done so too at some time or other. The Rengmas nearly always seem to wear hornbill feathers in threes, though sometimes in twos, the apparatus for a middle one being present but the feather absent.
text: The dots round the upper front of some figures like this: SKETCH are said to represent beads. Persons who have killed a tiger wear an additional white line on their cloths stamped in black gum with "tigers eyes" it looks something like this: SKETCH
text: I am trying to get a specimen but they are hard to get. I have only seen one ever, and the owner would not part. Moreover the art of making all these Rengma cloths is dying out. There used to be only one man in Themokedima (the biggest Rengma village) who could make them and he died this year. There is however someone in Insuma and someone in Tesifima who makes them - two men altogether, and probably their pattern varies from the Themokedima one.
text: I am still wrestling for more illustrations in the Sema monograph, 16 is too few, but I fear I shall not get them. It is maddening to have it spoilt for fifty pounds.
text: Please give my my best salaam to Mrs Balfour and accept them yourself. Are you coming to visit the Naga Hills ever? The Prince of Wales comes to Shillong next January and I have been warned to be prepared to take up some savage hordes for his edification. What a splendid trophy his head would be! - at any rate from the Naga point of view.
text: J.H. Hutton