Hanging Out With The Tattooed Faced Ex-Headhunters of Nagaland (Longwa Village)

Day 2
We visited the border marker stone a short uphill walk from the village. One side of the stone is in India, the other in Myanmar. Each side written in the country appropriate language. So theoretically you can stand with one foot in each country, and walk to Myanmar visa free should you wish. The view over the village is not a bad one either.


After that we visited another metal maker who bought out a variety of goods for sale. The guy was soon to be 18, he wished to go celebrate at Hornbill Festival, I bought a necklace partially as a memo and partially to help him get there.

I sat on an extravagantly carved wooden chair and stared around the room for 20minutes whilst my guide ignored me and chatted with the metal maker who later exhibited a fashionable gold (metal) detailed ladies spear (a custom order), which is used for decorative purposes at traditional ceremonies and festivals.

We He stopped various times to chat to passing people, before heading back to the house for tea.

After tea we visited a tattooed faced man – the main reason I had wanted to come to Nagaland.

The Konyak tribe are amongst the last remaining headhunter warriors left in the world. There are only around 10-12 warriors left in the village with facial tattoos.

Headhunting was abolished in Nagaland when Christianity was introduced in the region.

Boys would start around 16/17/18, and go out in groups in the hope to return with a human head of an enemy tribe.

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Any warrior that successfully brought back a head would be the focus of a huge celebration that night, the following day he would receive a facial tattoo from the Queen of the Village.
The hair would be removed and used to decorate the Warriors spear whilst the skull was left on show in the Moroung (community centre).
Any man who takes 5 heads or more would receive an honourable neck tattoo in addition.

My guide came across so uninterested In the whole scenario that I lost my enthusiasm for the matter. Every question I asked he would simply make the answer up – not even bothering to ask the old man. Fed up, I snapped a few pics, gave the man some change (which apparently was very generous as he reeled off his thanks, telling me God will bless me and all that jazz ) and left. He invited me back inside for yams and tea, which I gratefully accepted – I’d never tried yam before. It tasted a bit like potatoes. Just plain potatoes on a plate. And some tea.
Telling myself I would return with a better camera, a better translator, some more time and some more enthusiasm, I headed to the helipad/sunset viewpoint and began to update my diary.
After a few minutes, I felt stares, I looked up and found myself surrounded by kids. All girls. There seemed to be an obvious gender divide in the village; the girls were shy, giggly and nervous whilst the boys were boisterous, aggressive and quite rude. I guess the “warrior” mentality has been passed down through the generations.

The girls were responsible for carrying the younger children around with them on their backs (tied into a sarong across their bodies) whilst the boys ran wild, playing football, pulling one another along in a homemade cart and aiming slingshots in the faces of “farrangs” (foreigners).
After showing them some videos on my phone, I introduced them to “The Kim.K”, aka “The Selfie”. They were a giggling bundle of joy.

 

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Upon returning to the house I got a grilling for coming home past sunset (from the guide), I felt like I was a little girl again.

That night after we were drinking our post dinner ration of black tea, a skinny old guy came in, sat around the fire with us, cooked up some opium, smoked it then tried to sell me the pipe he had just smoked from.

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In the morning as we said our goodbyes, ‘mama’ gave me a blue beaded necklace as a ‘gift’….and then demanded I give her some long trousers. So the ‘gift’ was more of a forced exchange. I gave her two pairs as I was carrying too much weight anyway and bundled into the sumo with the other 11 people heading to Mon. Our car broke down half way and all the military cared about was me. What I was doing there, why I was travelling alone, where’s my passport, visa, and copies.

The constant military interest/hassle was become quite a bore to tell the truth.

Nagaland is such an exquisite cultural gem, but being so close to the border, being governed by opium addicts and having been exposed only to the type of tourism that expects money for the pleasure of being there alone made me feel a little uneasy.

I have wondered if my experience and image of the place had been an different is Longsha himself had been able to guide me. Until I return, that question remains.

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