The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter One. The Material Background
caption: high quality of wood carving; sexual motifs
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York18:2
text: The artistic merits of the wood sculptures which were to be seen on Konyak buildings varied according to the talents of the man who had carved them, and the quality of carvings differed from village to village. In general feeling and style they were clearly distinguished from the visual art of such tribes as Angamis and Semas. While Angami paintings and carvings were conventionalized, often stylized representations, the peculiarity of Konyak carvings lay in their great naturalism. Humans and animals appeared in movement and were arranged in groups, which, although following certain traditional lines, left ample scope for the imagination of the artist. Human figures were represented in an upright or squatting posture. Men holding enemies' heads and men with raised dao were frequent motifs, but there were also men smoking pipes or picking lice from each other's hair. The primary sexual characteristics were always strongly emphasized. Coitus representations adorned the men's houses in several villages, and copulating couples were portrayed standing, though this was a pose not habitually adopted by Konyaks. A frequent subject with an equally strong sexual note was the loving couple, with arms entwined, in dancing postures. There can be little doubt that such phallic symbolism had the purpose of promoting fertility, and the carvings of women giving birth, or carrying a child in their arms, probably had the same aim.