The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-five. Farewell
caption: favourite artefacts and dangerous artefacts
medium: books
person: Chinkak/ of WakchingMauwang/ of Longkhai
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: I cannot help my eyes falling also on those objects which I feel now I would rather never have possessed -- a small log-drum, a pair of grave-statues, and the model of a chief's coffin -- for their making has brought much sorrow to their creators. It was in the first month of my stay in Wakching that I told the gaonbura of my wish to purchase a small log-drum. They advised me to talk to Chinkak, the Ang of Wakching -- he, said the gaonbura, was a good wood-carver, and since he did no work he had plenty of time to carve me whatever I wanted. Chinkak, though nominally Ang of Wakching, has not achieved much in this life, and is one of the few Nagas I would describe as a social misfit. His father, a scion of the powerful Ang family of Chui, had been offered the chieftainship of Wakching, at a time when the peace of the village had been disturbed by internal quarrels. However, his strict autocratic rule had not been to the liking of the Wakching people, and when he died, leaving no heir of pure Ang blood, they were careful not to repeat the experiment with a "great Ang," preferring rather to recognize Chinkak, the son of a concubine. But Chinkak never succeeded in gaining any influence, and, an addict of opium, he soon wasted the rich heritage of his father. He still receives tribute from the vassal villages of Wakching, but more often than not he mortgages it long before it falls due.
text: Chinkak was therefore only too pleased to raise some extra cash by carving me a log-drum. Yet he had his doubts about the task. To carve a drum, otherwise made and dragged into the village with numerous ceremonies, was not so harmless as it ; appeared, for just then his wife was pregnant, and he feared the child might be harmed if he carved that drum. I considered this only a pretext for raising the price, and my willingness to pay a larger and a comparatively high price for the drum eventually conquered Chinkak's doubts.
text: He carved the drum, and I paid the price. A few months later his child was born -- with a hare lip.
text: "Of course," said the Wakching people, "the slit in the drum and the slit in the child's lip are one and the same. Chinkak should not have carved that drum while his wife was pregnant."
text: The two grave-figures, dressed and armed like real warriors with small spears and dao, are like so many of the other carvings of my collection, the work of my friend Mauwang, the Ang of Longkhai. He, too, had hesitated for a long time before promising to carve them.
text: "When an Ang dies, we carve grave figures," he argued. "If I now carve such figures for you, might it not happen that someone will die?"
text: But at last I persuaded him, and so he sacrificed a pig before starting, as though he were working for a real funeral. Hardly were the figures completed, when Mauwang fell ill, and though he sacrificed many chickens, he did not recover. Returning from Pangsha, I found him emaciated and worn out by recurrent attacks of malaria. Atebrin soon put him on his feet again, but instead of reproaching me for exposing him to the danger of illness by asking for the two figures, he thanked me again and again for the miraculous cure.