The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Four. Above the Clouds
caption: strangers with fantastic head-dresses and tattoos
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: When we returned to the bungalow after a whole morning's visiting the village, we found it surrounded by a strange crowd, squatting on the ground and chewing betel. Their faces -- they struck me first -- were covered with intertwined lines of rich blue tattoo, like pictures I had seen of old Maori chiefs. The lines wound in curves and twists round the eyes, nose, and mouth. Tight cane belts pulled in waists to astonishingly small proportions. The wasp-like waists of the early years of the century came to my mind, and those caricatures of what seem to us ridiculous fashions. But there was nothing ridiculous about these men. Their slim bodies, more elegant and supple than those of the Wakching men, were really beautiful, and even their fantastic head-dresses did not weaken this impression. Boars' tusks, goats' hair dyed red, monkey and bear fur, and great hornbill feathers were all in some way or (36) other attached to the small cane hats perched on the top of their heads. Straight black hair was tied in a firm knot at the back, and flat pieces of wood, flying tails of goats' hair, stuck horizontally through the knot. Sometimes the ends of these flat pieces of wood bore the carvings of miniature heads, and these, we were told, tallied with the enemy heads the wearer had helped to capture.