Arunachal Pradesh is a
land of beautiful handicrafts comprising a wide variety. Artistic
craftsmanship has been passed on from one generation to the other and
sense of aesthetics has been manifested through a variety of crafts such
as weaving, painting, pottery, smithy work, basket making etc.
Crafts According To Regional Zones
From the viewpoint of the art and culture the state may be very conveniently divided into three zones. The first of these zones includes the Buddhist tribe; the second occupies the central part (from east Kameng in the west to Lohit in the east); and the third zone is the eastern part of the territory.
The people of the first zone make beautiful masks. They periodically stage pantomimes and masked dances. They also make exquisite painted wooden vessels and silver articles. Carpet making is a specialty of the Monpas, the Buddhist community. Carpets with exotic designs of dragons, geometric and floral patterns are made here. Carpet weaving has today become a major occupation of the womenfolk and with an increase in demand, production of the carpets is now being undertaken on a large scale.
Those of the second zone are expert workers in cane and bamboo. The cane and bamboo industry of the state has made a name for itself. As a matter of fact most of the domestic requirements are made of these materials. Hats, baskets, canes vessels, cane belts - woven and plain, bamboo mugs and carvings, a wide variety of ornaments and jewellery items are all crafted by workmen. The shawls and jackets, shoulder bags and coats all stand for the perfection that the people have attained in this art.
The people of the third zone are famous for their wooden carvings. The Monpa wood carver scoopes out beautiful cups, dishes and fruit bowls and magnificent ceremonial masks for dances and pantomimes. Another tribe that is framed for this art is the Khamptis who carve out beautiful religion images, figures of dancers, toys and other objects. They weave beautiful bags and loincloths too. Goat's hair, ivory, boar's tus, beads of agate and the stones as well as of brass and glass are specialties of the people of this zone.
Weaving - A Women Dominated Creative Art
Weaving is the occupation of the womenfolk throughout the territory. They have an excellent sense of colour. The basic colours that dominate the weaves are black, yellow dark blue, green and scarlet - all put together in the most fascinating combinations. Originally natural dyes were used, which today have given away to synthetic dyes.
The designs are essentially geometric varying from a formal arrangement to lines and bands. Items that could make excellent buys are Sherdukpen shawls, Apatani jackets and scarves, Adi skirts, jackets and bags, Mishmi shawls, blouses and jackets; and Wancho bags.
Cane And Bamboo Work
Cane and bamboo industry of Arunachal Pradesh is of very high standard. Most of the domestic requirements are made of cane and bamboo. Hats of different sizes and shapes, various kinds of baskets, cane vessels, a wide variety of cane belts, woven and plains, elaborately woven brassier of cane and fibre, bamboo mugs with carvings, a variety of ornaments and necklaces are some of the products that deserve special mention. The technique of basketry is same throughout. The two basic techniques are twill and hexagon both open and closed.
Arunachal basketry is beautiful not only because of the fine texture but also because of the unusual shapes. Many a baskets have pleasing forms. There is definite correlation between the shape and the topography and climatic condition of the region. The angular and curvatious nature of some of the baskets has definite functional value.
Carpet making is the specialty of the Monpas. They weave lovely colourful carpets with dragon, geometric and floral designs. The choice of colour and the colour combination is unique. Though originally they weave carpet for domestic use, it has now become an item of trade and a major occupation for some ladies. Alongwith increase in demand, production has also been made in large scale.
Wood carving is a tradition with some of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The Monpas, Khamtis, and Wanchos occupy significant place in this art. The Monpa wood carver makes beautiful cups, dishes; fruit bowls and carve magnificent masks for ceremonial dances and pantomimes.
The Khambas and Membas of West Siang also carve wooden masks. The Khamptis make beautiful religious images figures of dancers, toys and other objects. Very beautiful woodcarvings are made by the Wanchos of Tirap. In fact the Wancho area is the Chief center of woodcarving. Wancho woodcarving was earlier associated mainly with head hunting and human head dominated everything that they made. But now a days variety of subjects are included. They are invariably free standing. Minute observation on the details will reveal that the Wancho wood carver had deep sense of proportion, inspite of the fact that they give much attention to the head.
Of late departure from the traditional fixed form is noticed in many carved figures. Asymmetrical ones are replacing symmetrical postures; relief works are experimented in various themes. There is no doubt that change has penetrated deep into the Wancho woodcarving.
Crafting ornaments is another art widely practised by the Arunachalis. Besides multicoloured beads, feathers of birds and wings of the green beetles are also used as embellishments. The Akas make bamboo bangles and earrings, which are occasionally decorated with pokerwork designs.
Most of the ornaments are made of beads, as the tribes are very fond of it. While some people just hang strings of beads round their neck, others such as the Noctes and Wanchos weave them into very attractive patterns. The Wancho girls particularly are very expert in beadwork. The designs and colour combination are superb. One Wancho girl received President's award for master craftswoman in 1985 for excellent beadwork. Besides beads work the Wanchos make ear ornaments from glass beads, wild seeds, cane, bamboo and reed. Various ornaments of coloured glass beads hold a special fascination for the people of Arunachal Pradesh.
Silver ornaments are a specialty of the Mishmis. The Idu Mishmi women wear silver fillet necklaces with lockets and beautiful earring. The Sherdukpens and the Khamtis at one time were also renowned for silver work. The Apatani women wear nose plugs made of cane, which are an exception with the other people of the territory.
Handy Craft Work
Paper making, smithy work, carpentry, pottery and ivory work are the other crafts practised by the Arunachalis. The Monpas make paper locally, from pulp of trees called Sukso or the other paper tress. This hand made paper is used for writing religious prayers on them. Hunting, fishing also form the subsidiary occupations.
Keeping The Art Heritage Intact
With a view to help developing arts and crafts and to substantiate the livelihood of the people, local boys and girls are imparted training in specially set up crafts centres. The rich heritage of art and crafts of Arunachal Pradesh is sure to add colour to the cultural heritage of the country.