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THIS IS PERHAPS THE LAST GENERATION OF TATTOOED HEADHUNTERS OF NORTHEASTERN HILLS OF INDIA

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In Konyak culture, tattooing is the prerogative of the Queen, wife of the Angh or the village chief. Various groups of tattoo patterns exist amongst the Konyaks. These differ from village to village and are closely linked to the sub-dialects they speak.

 

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Located right on the international border with Myanmar, the village of Lungwa is one of the larger Konyak settlements. The road through the village acts as a de facto border line, but it is just that—a line on the map. The Konyaks live, trade and move freely on both sides, unencumbered by the arbitrary boundary that divides their people.

 

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The dao, a curved, short broadsword, is an integral part of Naga life. It is used for chopping meat, clearing forests and even for headhunting when the practice existed. Every Naga household will have at least two. Here the Angh proudly displays his extensive collection; despite popular belief, a Naga having a facial tattoo does not denote that he killed another human—it only means that he participated in battle. Many still wear traditional jewellery—necklaces made with claws, animal skin hats adorned with boar tusks, goat horn earrings—though in some cases, plastic replicas have replaced the real thing; the Nagas are prolific hunters and proudly display their trophies outside their homes. Today, due to the stress on the fauna in Nagaland, many villages have banned hunting, though it still continues in pockets.

 

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Every Sunday afternoon, villagers along with the Angh gather in the new Morung, a sort of community school, in Hong Poi village to drink tea, crack jokes and discuss the week gone by.

By maxim