Clothing for genuine cultural appreciation


Clothing holds deep meaning and great significance to the Indigenous Peoples. For the people who wear cultural or traditional clothes, it creates a sense of belongingness and collective identity. Each Naga community has their own distinctive clothes with decorative symbols and designs reflecting gender, social, family and marital status, age, and also giving hint of the indigenous practices behind their making. ‘The relationship between dress and identity is profound for members of Indigenous communities. Beyond its practical use, clothing conveys information about the identity of the individual wearing it and sometimes pays tribute to a person’s significant achievements or highlights the intimate connection between human beings and nature - (McCord Museum, 2023).’

With the emerging modernisation and globalisation, most of the indigenous textiles and clothing have moved radically away from its original forms and implications. For the Naga people, the craft of weaving has been more than just about creating a piece of cloth. Weaving has always been about affirming and maintaining one’s indigenous identify and womanhood in all aspects. Today there is a visible fashion revolution to bring back the traditional clothes back into style. The growing interest and investment for promoting weaving with the use of traditional loin loom in Nagaland is one of the manifestations of this revolution. It will not be wrong to state that in the present day there is a growing demand for the cultural and traditional clothes, thanks to the rising cultural expression through modern fusion fashion. 

While efforts made by individuals to promote the traditional clothing have made perceptible impact, the Nagaland Tribal Affairs Department in September 2021 initiated a trend whereby all its staff members and officials will wear each community’s traditional costume during office hours every Wednesday. The department head had cited that being the department that looks after the welfare and any affairs that is tribal, the initiative is a humble step conceptualised to promote the rich traditional attires of the many tribes of Nagaland. Taking the lead for the student community, the Naga Students Federation had also appealed to all the educational institutions under the Naga homeland to allow students from Class V onwards to wear Naga traditional attire once a week in order to protect the Naga cultural identity. It is not an imposition but an appeal to the institutions, NSF president has said while making the appeal during August 2022. In Dimapur, few colleges were already following the trend of wearing traditional items along with their uniforms. The traditional items included shawl, waist coat, traditional scarf, earrings, necklace, wristband, bangles and traditional bags.

Magnifying the popularity of blending traditional wear at work place and beyond, the Additional State Protocol Officer, Government of Nagaland initiated the ‘Mekhela Wednesday’ for friends and colleagues in the Nagaland Civil Secretariat. Since its introduction on May 17 last, the ‘Mekhela Wednesday’ movement has spread to departments including such as School Education, SCERT and Department of Industries. Mount Hermon Higher Secondary School, Kohima and Nagaland House in Guwahati have also joined the movement. In a time when fast fashion and clothing trends do not stay too long, there is still an impeccable exquisiteness to witness anyone adorning a piece of traditional attire with its display of unique and great craftsmanship. Regardless of individual or community initiative, the event of promoting and preserving the Naga cultural individuality through the expression of clothing have to generate only genuine cultural appreciation. 

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