The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - 'Diary of a Tour in the Naga Hills, 1922-1923' by Henry Balfour

caption: House building; pottery; xylophones; spinning; hairstyles; houses
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Shiong Wakching Aopao (Chongwe)
date: 15.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Wed. Nov. 15th.
text: Mills & I went in the morning to Shiong, a Konyak village of about 40 houses, two miles from Wakching, along a Naga path. The path was exceedingly steep in parts. I was carried in the chair. Down a small valley & over a low ridge brought us to the village, which had probably never been visited by a non-official white man. It is thoroughly untouched by outside influence & very typically Konyak of the less well-to-do type. We found the village very busy building a house for a couple who were about to marry. When we arrived they had only erected a few of the vertical posts, but although it was a good-sized house, it was approaching completion when we left at 3.40 p.m. The younger men were building the framework, mainly of bamboo, & the old men were preparing the palm-leaf thatching by stitching leaves of Hyphaene palm in rows onto bamboo rods about 5 ft. long. Each of these formed a thatch-unit. Young men were splitting long bamboos into four strips each, very ingeniously & expeditiously, by splitting the ends of a bamboo into four & then drawing it lengthwise across two bamboos fixed so as to form a cross. The bamboo lengths were thus very rapidly split throughout their length into 4 rods. The house framework was entirely tied together. We watched women making pottery & I obtained a set of the appliances used (viz. smooth stone, 2 mallets & a pounding-stick, which is also used as a 'resistance' on the inside in the early stages of shaping the clay). I sketched two xylophones (at the two morungs). Watched bark-fibre being spun for making bark-fibre cloth; the toes were much used for grasping the spindle end, so as to release both hands. Peculiar false pigtails are worn by women & girls; either the hair is wrapped in leaves & tied round with extra hair added so as to make a long, narrow queue; or else a tapering wooden cylinder is attached to the growing hair & with extra hair attached to the end, the whole being wrapped in leaves, giving the semblance of long & luxuriant hair-growth. I purchased one of these false queues which I had seen made. Many girls were having their hair done up in this way outside the houses. The men are practically nude when working, the women very nearly so. The latter wear a 5 inch deep 'skirt' round the waist, which just covers the lower part of the buttocks & is kept in place in front by the upper edge passing under a string tied tightly round the waist. I obtained a tattooing set & also some spring bird-traps & a fish trap. A stone celt was brought to Mills who gave it to me. The great shyness & nervousness of the women wore off as we stayed on, & they went about their occupations unconcerned, though some would still bolt if we approached. The houses are rather low & have the tops of the main supporting pillars projecting through the roof-ridge, looking like chimney-pots. Under the verandah of the Ang's house hung two skulls (heads taken from Chongwe village), trophies of a raid, together with articles looted at the same time. Other heads from this raid went to Wakching.