The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-six. Tribesmen Of Tirap
caption: watching and filming dance of ambush and cutting off head
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Wanchu
location: Mintong
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 1962
text: The days of head-hunting were still vividly in the minds of the Wanchus, and in Mintong I watched a dance which dramatized an ambush and the cutting off of the head of a slain enemy. The dancers were young and middle-aged men and they wore as phantastic and varied an array of ornaments and head-dresses as twenty -- five years earlier the Wakching men had worn when they celebrated the arrival of the Pangsha heads. To hornbill feathers and caps of monkey and leopard fur they had added such outlandish acquisitions as a red military beret. Their faces were painted white and black, and in addition to dao and spears, many brandished guns. Singing and shouting groups of men danced through the village, and converged finally on the open space in front of a morung. There they staged a head-hunting raid. Several men cautiously crept forward as if shadowing an enemy and from time to time signalled those hiding behind them in the bushes.
text: (219) At last they were within striking distance of the notional quarry and now the whole gang still crouching low and keeping complete silence, tensed up for the assault. Suddenly they lept forward; one man firing a gun and others swinging dao, they threw themselves on the imaginary victim. With wild shouts they pretended to cut off his head and then danced with the trophy, all the time chanting and yelling. The performance was realistic enough and I felt that with a little encouragement the men of Mintong and presumably also those of other Wanchu villages would gladly return to the real thing. In some of the morung there were small collections of enemies' heads and the administration of N.E.F.A. wisely allowed the Wanchus to keep these mementos of their fathers' exploits.