THE LAST FRONTIER: ‘Close encounters’ in the Land of Anghs

THE LAST FRONTIER: ‘Close encounters’ in the Land of Anghs

Images of Konyak elders, chieftains decked with tattoos and ornaments during the Aoleang Monyu, the premier festival of the Konyak Nagas held in Mon recently. (Morung Photo)

Ketholeno Neihu
Mon | April 13

Elders are known to be the storehouse of traditional values, skills and morale but with the disappearing legacy, the sight of elders in social gatherings has become rare.

For the Konyak Nagas, still a place largely ruled by hereditary chieftains known as Anghs and encapsulated between the past and present, there are still a few remaining who proudly carry their heritage along with them.
During the Aoleang Monyu, the premier festival of the Konyak community held in Mon town this April, The Morung Express had the opportunity to interact with some of the elders attending the event to witness the Guinness World Record attempt (later conferred) by 4687 women performing the Konyak traditional dance.

Hailing from T Chingkho Village, Manihaih Konyak, in his early 70s, dons a necklace with head trophies made of brass and headgear of animal tusk while carrying a bamboo bag adorned with animal horns. He is a manifestation of the bygone head hunting days. He reveals he was never a headhunter but is quick to point out that his attires mark his inheritance of his forefathers’ traditions.

Running in his 88th year, Yongai Konyak is a visual rendering of the last generation hear hunters. Dark green tattoo covers his visage while long animal horns juts out of his pierced ears. His one fierce tone has become fragile. But the spirit is still unmistakable as he explains how his face tattoo “was an admonition of his achievement made in his youth.”

Khowang Konyak is the Angh of Youching village. He is 60. For this man, expressing his amusement of seeing a drone for the first time in his lifetime, said he has experienced transformation in his land from the point of time the community first embraced Christianity to now when mobile phones have become ubiquitous.

“In my next life, I want to be born again in the same place to see what is left of my tradition,” Khowang muttered as he chewed away his areca nut-betel leaves combo.

For Khoshai, a septuagenarian, attires are a form of cultural expression. With the unmistakable vestige of tattoo in his dark face, head gears and neck ornaments properly in place, Khoshai said this is a “way of life.” He received the tattoo during his youth.

When asked why it is a way of life, he explained, “The younger people go to study in the town and cities, but come back adapting the other way of life. For me it is a way of life that I wish to carry to the grave.”

Apart from women taking centre stage at the Guinness World Record attempt, her Highness Nm. Angun, Angh-yha of Chi (queen of Chi) was present to invoke traditional blessing for the crowd. The Angh of Chi rules over major villages in Mon.

As queen of Chi, she signifies her people’s aesthete. Her spectacular ornaments are heavy and numbered in the dozens.

Although she hasn’t tattooed a person in her lifetime, she explains how a queen or women enjoyed the autonomy of the art of traditional tattooing. Optimistically, the art of tattooing is still practiced by the younger generations.

Considered as one of the last frontiers among the Nagas with a remnant of the past, the Konyak community still carries the torch of the once proud and fierce people that the Nagas were.