The Naga Warriors of the Hornbill Festival

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I'm back from Nagaland and what an epic of contrasts the experience was. The youngsters in Nagaland are so nattily dressed that you could be forgiven for feeling you are walking the streets of Bangkok. The same youngsters chew paan like their life depends on it. No, it doesnt end there, the same ilk then dons grease paint and the most amazing costumes and transports you to another century/planet the next morning at the Hornbill festival. Its crazy, seeing the Naga warriors decked out to kill(pun intended) and lining the amphitheatre stairs, sitting upright like gladiators along with their elders and women is a sight thats designed to give you the goosebumps. And you are shocked and shamed that you lived in India as long as you did without knowing too much of this glorious part of the country. There is so much more I want to share about Nagaland and seeing it through the eyes of the indomitable Rittika Mittal and her local Naga friends has ensured that my naga experience is so much more than skin deep. But for now, get splashed by the warrior hues of Nagaland.
"The (14) tribes of Nagaland are Angami Naga, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchungrü, and Zeliang, of which the Konyaks, Angamis, Aos, Lothas, and Sumis are the largest Naga tribes." Wiki

It was amazing to see the warriors bare chested and bare feet while the rest of us mortals wore thermals with our woollens. This particular warrior was so sweet and smiled at me when he saw that I was taking his picture & nodded encouragingly.

On a personal level, it has been quite a challenge photographing the Naga Warriors, with a camera not really equipped to shoot people from afar. Which meant I needed to be a lot closer to the subject. Now everyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that you won't find too many people pictures here. It is because I truly find it slightly intimidating to poke my camera in people's faces. But thats exactly what I did this time round. Day 1 saw me pussy footing & shooting people from afar & day 2, I was like, I have come this far to get and give a good view of whats happening here & this wont do. That when the pictures got better. I still wish I had better lenses to shoot with. Next time :)

It was touching to see young and the old dressed to the hilt and proudly representing their tribe in the festival, which remains a mere representation of another way of life.

In this picture the focus is off, there is terrible lens flare & yet it is a picture I really like, I was crouched on the floor taking pictures of some seated warriors & I followed their eyes to see these new set of warriors walking by quickly. I love the way he walked into this hastily clicked frame.
The other stumper was identifying & distingushing the 16 different tribes. After a point I gave up. Am labelling the tribes with ample aid from the State Museum & the Hornbill festival brochures :) If someone knows better & if there's a mistake feel free to write in, will correct it.

Time for some action.

The YIMCHUNGRU costume has to be my favourite. Thats why so many pictures of them, just couldnt get enough of their bright red costumes, the elaborate & magestic headgear.

There's more coming up. It is the Naga women thats next, followed by the distinct Morungs (huts) they live in plus so much more. Stay tuned, this blog is going to be rather Naga for the next few days :)

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