Fab India’s use of Naga cultural motifs and materials attracts criticism

Morung Express news
Dimapur | Aug 13

Cultural appropriation of Naga cultural material has existed for a long time. One example is the 1972 Bollywood film “Ye Gulistan Hamara” depicting a tribal community living along the border with China where the actress was seen wearing a Sumi Naga shawl. The film was banned from showing in Nagaland because the Ao community opposed the song “Mera Naam Aao”, and even the Naga Student Federation staged a huge protest against it. Another example is that of actor Mithun Chakraborty who was seen wearing a female Naga shawl in one of his films.

The Oxford Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as “the unrecognized or inappropriate adoption of customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another generally more dominant people or society”.

Outside of Bollywood, the Naga Company has also witnessed an increase in incidences of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry.

The “FabNU” collection of clothing brand Fab India has been criticized. On Friday, the board of directors of Nagaland Handloom & Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited (NHHDC Ltd) released a statement, noting that Fab India’s new collection includes a ‘Folkdelic’ category containing Naga prints and Naga inspired prints. without any authorization. , collaboration with local artisans or any type of credit granted to any Naga tribe or organization.

As an exception, the board noted that the collection not only uses Naga prints without permission, but also depicts male warriors on clothing intended for women.

“Naga prints and patterns have evolved over the centuries and are gender and tribe specific and are passed down from generation to generation. be stopped immediately, ”said the board.

He said that the big fashion magazines in India like Elle and Vogue have published articles on this new collection but no mention was made of Nagaland or the Nagas, the obvious source of inspiration for this collection.

In this regard, the Managing Director of NHHDC Ltd Zakabo V Rotokha said that the board will pursue the matter with the appropriate authority so that such cases do not recur. Council further urged Tribal Hohos and Women Hohos and stakeholders to exercise extreme caution when collaborating, partnering with individual and commercial entities on similar issues. He said that permission, when granted, should only be granted for a specific event or period, not perpetually.

At the time of filing this report, Fab India has not responded to messages from this newspaper requesting the company’s response.

“Not the first time”
The NHHDC Ltd noted that this is not the first time that traditional Naga outfits, adornments and patterns have been misused and appropriated by non-Naga. He said the Nagaland government had in the past written to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to inform them that Naga cultural clothing is gender-specific and sacrosanct to Naga society and that “any display or use in any form whatsoever it may have serious repercussions on society ”, unless written permission is obtained from the indigenous source.

Researcher Talilula is of the opinion that “when a so-called ‘awake’ brand like Fab India undoubtedly uses indigenous Naga designs in their clothing, but still out of ignorance chooses to label them as ‘dobby print skirt’ and “Linen print dress” on their website is a straight case of cultural misappropriation / appropriation. This not only dissociates symbolic conceptions from its source community, but also erases their cultural identity, she claimed.

Respect and understand indigenous conceptions
Commenting on the issue of plagiarism of indigenous designs, Sharon Longchari said that “designers must respect and understand the importance of cultural and indigenous designs as intellectual property. These aren’t just pretty pattern designs – they usually carry deeper symbolism and stories. “

Longchari also pointed out that a brand called Bamboo Tree Jewelry on the Myntra shopping site sells a line of jewelry that is exact replicas of necklaces worn by Konyak Nagas. Furniture wholesalers in Rajasthan and other parts of India are taking advantage of the growing popularity of indigenous tribal furniture and have learned to reproduce and mass produce it for export as antique furniture from Nagaland, a- she added.

Go forward
Ngutoli Y Swu, assistant professor in the history department of Zunheboto Government College, noted with relief that the Naga society “speaks up and is angry with the cultural appropriation that is happening and has started to fight for what is ours.” .

She stressed that cultural appropriation has a long-term effect on people and their cultural heritage. “We must look for ways to prevent such incidents from happening again in the future,” she said.

Swu suggested that tribal organizations should take steps to properly document Naga textiles as well as ornaments, publish manuals on their proper use, and opt for geographical indication labels where possible.

The government can encourage the Nagas researchers by funding them to document the cultural heritage of their respective tribes and the researchers, in turn, can educate the knowledge keepers on the appropriate means of disseminating information outside the community, a she added.

Taking the example of a practice started by the Lazami Cultural Society, from Lazami Village in Zunheboto District, Swu said village councils should keep records of people visiting their villages, as well as the purpose of their visit. and what they plan to do with the information, if put together.

Each village can imitate this practice and can even go so far as to sign obligations not to abuse or misinterpret the information collected and the state government can support this type of practice by providing financial aid to these villages. It is a means by which cultural appropriation can be controlled to some extent, she suggested.

“Naga cultural clothing is sacrosanct for Naga society”

Dimapur, Aug 13 (MExN): Nagaland Handloom & Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited (NHHDC Ltd) issued a statement on Friday expressing serious concern about the conflict of interest between the Chakhesang Women Welfare Society (CWWS) and Indian designer Ritika Mittal regarding “breach of agreement” and the use of Chakhesang textile without proper consent and accreditation.

Citing press reports on the matter, the board of directors of NHHDC Ltd noted that “this is not the first time that traditional Naga outfits, ornaments and patterns have been misused and appropriated by foreigners, it is ie non-Nagas ”. In light of such cases, the board said that the Nagaland government previously wrote to the Indian government’s Department of Tribal Affairs, stating that “Naga cultural clothing is gender specific and sacrosanct to Naga society. “.

“The same further explained that unless you get written permission from the native source, any posting or use in any form can create serious repercussions in society. Subsequently, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was requested to refrain from any illegitimate practices relating to traditional Naga attire, etc. », Indicates the press release.

In the present tangle, the board has stated that the CWWS has, in particular, all legal rights and protection against outside intrusion and, as such, strongly denounced “the unwarranted action of the designer and at the same time called upon to guarantee against the exploitation and misuse of Naga traditional outfits, ornaments and patterns.

In addition, the board of directors appreciated the CWWS for the GI branding of its traditional shawls and weaves in 2017 and expressed the hope that the rest of the Nagas would also take similar initiatives sooner rather than later.


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