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Naga shawl weavers on the brink

Traditional Naga shawls entail a pattern of story-telling and form the literature of any given age, gender, clan, village or tribe. Haphazard plagiarism has led to the loss of this cultural heritage and the narratives that extrapolate culture. Women making these shawls are known to be from poor backgrounds, working hard on their only market skill—the loin loom—passed on through generations; they get a minimal part of the profit.

The trend of gifting intricately etched Naga weaves and crafts has degraded the value and worth of both the culture and the labor involved. The shawls are often used as carpets and bedcovers. Each shawl is carefully designed and woven with bent backs over the loom for hours on end, with careful stitching together of the woven pieces at the end.

Naga textiles have a remarkable heritage enmeshed in a system of hand spin, dyeing, warping, weaving, bead work and designs. Loin loom weaving was once fundamental to the artistic labor of Naga women but due to Christianity and modernisation the younger generation is not aware of its textile heritage.

Very few Naga women and young girls want to learn weaving. This is partly due to the culture of second hand easy-wash-and-wear clothing.