… When I went backpacking through South East Asia in the early nineties, myself and a friend got quite into collecting old beads on our travels, a hobby I still have to this very day. Back then, along with the Tibetan Plateau, home of the infamously mysterious Dzi beads, North East India’s Nagaland represented my own personal bead mecca, mainly because of a lot of rumours and mis-information but also because it was completely off-limits to foreigners at the time.
A few years ago I found myself working in Bhutan and whilst looking at a map I realised that my mythical Nagaland was geographically quite close as it went. After a little research and some classic Indian style blagging of travel permits, I made my way to Kohima, Nagaland’s capital, and the beginning of a 4 week journey through this fascinating tribal state who’s cultures owe more to neighbouring Myanmar than anything to the west of them.
Here is a selection of photographs from that trip.
The Konyak Naga, like many of Nagaland’s tribes have been made infamous by their headhunting tradition which has all but disappeared in the 21st century. Saying that however, a couple of months before I arrived, an inter family dispute had resulted in the Indian government sending more troops to Mon to quell growing unrest after a severed head was planted ceremoniously slap bang in the middle of the town. Traditionally, Konyak men have tattooed their faces and bodies as a sign that they have taken human heads, a body adornment that can only be seen on the tribal elders today, the practice of head hunting having mostly disappeared by the early 80’s.
Many remote Konyak villages have succumbed to temptation of Opium as it is on its way out of Myanmar to the buying public. If you are traveling around these parts, choose your overnight stays wisely lest you find yourself under the dark cloud of a community over run by the drug. Normally, if the Angh (village leader) is a smoker, then you can rest assured the rest of the neighbourhood likes a toke, and you will no doubt quickly discover a place who’s soul has long gone up in the smoke of the low quality resin which is available in these parts . Villages like these are better passed by in my opinion.
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