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Shakeel Sobhan

By Nandita Haksar
Chicken Neck Publications, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 32, 175.00


Books about the history of the various ethnic groups of North East India may be found abundantly in libraries but those catering to the minds of young children are few and far between. That is why Who are the Nagas? in its attempt to reach out to children is a commendable effort. Haksar, a human rights lawyer and author, makes an ethnographic study of the Naga tribes in this book. Apart from Illustrations, puzzles and crosswords the book paints a very vivid picture of the region and its people—about whom not much is known, outside of their land. Originally intended for Naga children, the book can be a treasure-trove for anyone who wants to know about the history and culture of the Nagas. From the etymology of the word 'Naga' to their intricate ornamentation, Who are the Nagas? very lucidly, presents the way of life of the Naga people. The book leads the reader via a series of activities through the history of the Naga tribes as they traverse from Yunan Province of China (as experts believe) and come to settle in what is now known as Nagaland, and thereon goes on to describe their different cultures and dwellings. It delves into interesting tidbits of information—such as that the international boundary between India and Myanmar passes through the house of the chief of the Konyak tribe—which are bound to keep the reader engrossed. While the osmosis of information happens, one of the elements that really stands out in the book is the artwork of Goan artist Kalidas Mhamal. The artist's ethnographic portraits are lifelike and impeccably detailed. All the intricately designed ceremonial wear, ornaments, items of use are just as intricately drawn, thereby brilliantly breathing life into them. His art work gives a picture to the imagination of the reader and makes it that much easier to follow the author's words. The only disconnect a reader not familiar with the Nagas might face is that he/she might be stumped when asked to identify from a set of images who amongst them are the members of the Naga tribes. Or when shown pictures of items the Nagas use in their everyday life and asked to link these unfamiliar items with their uses. But a reader need not worry. The answers to the aforementioned questions are quite within reach and form a part of the activities, which the ...

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