The Konyak Naga Headhunting Warrior of Mon District, Nagaland
Oil on Canvas
36” x 24"
A note on this painting
The Konyak tribals of the Mon area were primarily headhunters. They are identifiable by the varied and intricate tattoos over their faces, chests and arms. These tattoos were a mark of valour and a ritual of high honour and a reward for every head hunted…
And therefore I'm in Mon!
Mon, where Headhunting was being practiced right into the nineties. And there...and I’ve to pinch myself as I say this, I meet the Naga Headhunters! Not one or two but four of them. Now well into their 80s, they are a generation that is passing on and may not be around five years down the line…
They are tattooed in wide bands around the eyes, across and down the chest, around the knees and elbows. The tattoos were rewards for bringing an enemy head home. The head being the symbol of energy. The number of brass heads worn around the neck by each warrior stands for the number of heads hunted by him. I notice that each of them has four to five brass heads on display. They have boar horns about eight inches long, through their ear lobes. Heavy bead necklaces consisting of several strands of beads, and a couple more made of mithun teeth and bone adorn their necks. Their head pieces of hog hair are embellished with boar tusks.
As I sit opposite King Bowang, conversing, I am mesmerised by the ‘Daohs’ at the back on the walls of the wicker shack. These are multipurpose blades, a foot long, with a wide blade which were used for felling a tree, cutting wood, animal, fowl and in harvesting. Both paddy and heads…
Bowang and his companions must have been a very different entity then. Now they are but a shadow of themselves, eager to reminisce, talk of the bygone days of their glory.
An hour has gone by and the king offers us tea. Black and hot. This is one tea that I shall not forget in a hurry...tea with the head hunting warrior and king, Bowang of the Konyak Nagas! Surrounded by three more headhunters!
This painting of a headhunter, whom I met, is accurate in every detail. Right down to the colour and count of beads around the neck!