Nagaland, India: A national seminar with the theme “Naga women traditional attires: celebrating us” was sponsored by the Women Cell/Anti Sexual Harassment Cell, Japfü Christian College, Kohima, in association with IQAC, JCC, and with support from the Nagaland State Commission for Women (NSCW), on May 6, 2023.
According to a news release, the seminar’s guest speakers included Dr Easterine Kire, author; Dr Theyiesinuo Keditsu, assistant professor at Kohima College; and Prof. Ajailu Niumai from the University of Hawaii.
Every Naga textile was “conceived and created by a woman’s hand and a woman’s mind, not by the hands of a man,” Dr Kire said in her preface. According to her opinion, a body cloth should be worn to cover the body, and a waist cloth should be worn by ladies underneath. It loses some of its distinctiveness if you call it a shawl.
Wearing our traditional clothing, according to Kire, is the closest thing to understanding what it could be like to wear a poem.
In order to ensure that “the celebration goes on for years and years,” she emphasised the significance of documenting the various designs on our clothing and gathering important knowledge about the craft of weaving before it is too late.
A renowned sociologist named Prof. Ajailiu Niumai lectured on the subject of “attires as a symbol of cultural identity.” “Naga attires are distinctive to our cultural identity,” she declared. It represents our Naga cultural legacy, so rather than being ashamed of it, we should celebrate it.
She said that the way we dress and wear ourselves reflects our history. It acts as a social cue, a social signal, and a reflection of our distinct identity that helps us feel connected to our cultural origins. She also emphasised the value of preserving, developing, and learning the craft of weaving in order to protect the rich cultural legacy and identity of the Naga people.
According to Dr Thieyiesinuo Keditsu, the mekhala is one of the most democratic, inclusive clothing options available to Naga women. Dr Keditsu claims that clothing speaks long after a speaker has died since fashion is a language.
“We women can claim agency; we can assert our desires, beliefs, and aspirations,” she said, using clothing as a form of communication. She stated that in our patriarchal society, women design the hidden purposes of our clothing, demonstrating the lovely agency our clothing exhibits.
She also regretted the way Western culture and education had turned us into outsiders in our own country. How, she pondered, can we women celebrate ourselves without being conscious of and knowledgeable about ourselves? He claimed that eating a history of information created by males about women would prevent women from gaining a full understanding of themselves. She said Naga women ought to support one another in contributing to the expanding body of knowledge created by women in the shape of our textiles and clothing.
She concluded by saying that weaving is a form of caregiving and enterprise and that to “celebrate us” requires more than merely donning our clothes; it also requires us to reflect deeply, reconsider our attitudes towards female work, and perhaps even take up weaving.