Guest Blog post by Anna-Louise Meynell of Annaloom textiles
The first two weeks of December are the highlight of the tourist calendar in Nagaland, North East India. Kohima is host to the Hornbill Festival, a vibrant celebration of the 16 (official) tribes of Nagaland.
India’s most eastern state is renowned for its tribal diversity, fierce warriors and some of the hottest chillies in the world. The Hornbill Festival is an occasion to sample the smoky flavours of their spicy cuisine, admire their material culture and colourful dances and learn about the cultural practices of each tribe - an irresistible event for nomadic textile enthusiast.
Visitors to Kohima on the 4 December witnessed the Angami tribe Monolith Pulling event. The streets were lined with men in traditional Angami dress, using vines tied together as ropes to combine their strength and pull the large stone monolith through the town. The atmosphere was charged, filled with motivational chants and a strong masculine energy as the monolith passed through the streets.
3 hours drive from Kohima, the Loinloom Festival was held in the village of Diezephe. The festival, organised by Exotic Echo brought together back strap weavers from the North East states to promote the weaving tradition of the region.
Naga textiles are traditionally all woven on the back strap loom in handspun cotton, eri silk or indigenous nettle and bark fibres, although today the majority of textiles are woven in acrylic wool from the local market.
Red, black and white stripes and striking geometric designs are characteristic of traditional Naga textiles, along with figurative designs of spears, animals, heads and human figures. Many pieces are embellished with beads and cowrie shells after weaving, each component of the design communicating tribal pride and stature.
The Loinloom Festival held light-hearted competitions to determine the fastest weaver and the fastest in warp preparation, it showcased the cotton cultivation and natural dyeing of the region, and created a marketplace for weavers to sell their products.