A couple of decades ago, big school-bag brands had an unassuming contender in Nagaland – the colourfully woven Naga sling bag. Affordable and durable, the bags used to add colour to the drab school uniforms. And then there were the different ‘styles’ how you could carry the bag.
The Naga bag that is woven on the loin looms by Naga women now finds more popularity among tourists. The bags are available on online sites like eBay. Unlike yesteryear, the bag has lost popularity in the urban areas of Nagaland, but can be seen in use in rural areas.
Each Naga tribe has its distinct colour combination and pattern of weave, and for those in the know, the tribe of a Naga man or woman can be ascertained by the weaves he or she wears or carries.
Among the more popular ethnic Naga sling bags are those of the Konyak Naga tribe. The Konyaks are known for their fierce headhunting days, which continued until 1960. They are widely recognised for their facial tattoos and the system of Kingship (Kings are called Anghs and they still have substantial amount of influence over the community). Konyak women also play a key role, and are mostly involved in household chores and agriculture.
Popular among Konyak weaves is the Anghya Nyekok, literally meaning Queen’s Bag. The particular design used in the making of the Anghya Nyekok could be used only by the women in the Angh’s family or the royalty. In Naga culture, certain weaves are restricted to be worn by men or women of some achievement or standing in the society.
Making of Anghya Nyekok is unique in that, the designs that have evolved over the craft’s history have articulated under their own genius. The chevron motifs in the bags are inserted with supplementary weft using a technique akin to rug making on the loin loom.
Today there are no such restrictions in the use of the Anghya Nyekok. The attractive ethnic bags are now woven and can be used by anybody. They now generate commerce for women weavers in Mon district, the land of the Konyaks.
For visitors to the land of the Nagas, the Naga sling bag is a must-have for its unique design, colours besides the utility quotient. It’s something you can carry home your memories of the Naga people.