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: Brass-casting techniques; blacksmith at work; morungs; tattooing and ornamentation
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.Wangpo/ of Wakching
ethnicgroup: KonyakChang
location: Wakching Patkoi Range Hungphoi (Hangphui)
date: 16.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Thurs. Nov. 16th.
text: There was a very fine view from the Wakching bungalow. To the S.E. and S. the Patkoi Range extends & a wide stretch of Konyak country, as yet unvisited & unknown, & towards the Southern range of vision the Konyak & Chang territories merge. From the ridge between the bungalow & the village there is a superb view over the Assam plains, a great extent of which is opened up to the N.W. & West. Sunrise & sunset effects very beautiful. In the morning clouds collect in the valleys rising later & often causing dense fog on the ridges in the afternoon. We went to the village in the morning & watched for a long time Wangpo, a brass-caster, at work with his very primitive outfit, in the small shed forming his workshop. He built up his moulds very cleverly by eye & cast some brass bracelets in our presence; he also cast a half-round brass bar in a long, narrow mould made simply from a green bamboo split longitudinally. He made a bracelet from a small brass bar & engraved it with chisel & hammer, holding the bar between his toes. I bought some of his outfit & unfinished armlets & also the 'bismar' with which he weighed out his metal, for 7 rupees. Mills went back to the bungalow to work, & I went to see a blacksmith at work making dao blades. The smith was stark naked & black from head to foot with soot and dirt. He made a dao blade from an old Assamese trade hoe-blade. It took him a good hour to make the blade, & when it had been hafted, I bought it for two rupees. He used metal tools & anvil but his methods were very primitive, though effective. Old hoe-blades are largely imported to supply the Nagas with iron for dao-making etc., and many dao blades are made in Wakching for trading elsewhere in the Hills. After this I visited the five morungs in the village (which has more than 400 houses). I photographed some very shy groups without their knowing it, by having a large dummy lens on the side of my camera & pretending to use that, the real lens being trained upon the group. The village is very difficult to find one's way about in, as the paths between the houses are very tortuous, unorganized and without orientation. The houses mostly have apsoidal fronts on the ground level, forming large lobbies. The main rooms are to one side, access to them being from a side passage; they are very dark. The back room leads onto an open platform on piles. Some houses have posts simply carved with mithan heads & other designs & occasionally there is a house surrounded with low carved & painted pillars, mostly red. The dhan (rice) stores at one end of the village are large & built on piles, and have double