Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, March 13: A visual book called ‘The Konyaks: Last of the Tattooed Headhunters’ from Nagaland received the ‘silver award’ in the ‘photo books’ category during the 9th International Creative Media Award (ICMA) at the London Book Fair on March 12, Tuesday, at London in England.
Founded 2010, ICMA is a worldwide annual competition for corporate medias, books, corporate design and magazines. It aims to support the exchange of creative ideas at the international platform.
It was organised by International Editorial Design and Research Forum, Germany. The ceremony was participated by 396 publications from 18 countries.
The book was authored by H Phejin Konyak and her photographer, Peter Bos, who is a professional portrait photographer from Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The duo were said to be independent researchers funding own research. The book was published by Roli Books.
The book is about a personal journey of H Phejin Konyak who retraces the steps of her grandfather and great-grandfather by documenting the tattooing practice of the Konyaks – once a fearsome headhunting tribe from Nagaland in India, well known for their iconic facial and body tattoos.
For the first time this book compiles the most intensive research and documentation that has ever been done on tattoo art.
It explores the Konyaks’ concept of beautification of the body through tattoos, in which the body is understood as a canvas for body art, with inscriptions marked on the skin as a form of rite of passage and cycle of life.
This book captures the unique but vanishing practice of the tattooing culture together with the tattoo patterns, their meanings and oral traditions, such as folktales, songs, poems and sayings.
It includes descriptions and information on the headhunting and tattooing practices; reasons behind it, techniques used, tattoo artists, different tattoo groups, types of tattoos and personal stories, visually interpreted with illustrations and photographs.
H Phejin Konyak, who hails from Shiyong village at Mon district in Nagaland, told Eastern Mirror that the book documents the unique culture of the Konyak tribe.
The inspiration to write the book came when she felt that the change in the culture and tradition of Konyak society and also the Naga society was rapidly changing due to modern influences of smart technology. “I felt the change was too rapid for which we were losing all our oral tradition and culture.
I felt that if I did not do something about it, then it will all go into waste. Especially the tattooed old men and women, my grandparent generation also, they are the last generation who have been carrying on the traditional culture of the tribe,” she said.
“Following western lifestyle because of Christianity and modernity of the world, we are losing our traditional culture. If we lose that, we lose our identity. This is why I started my journey,” she maintained.
The 39-year old said that her journey about the research to write the book began in 2014. Konyak said that she along with her photographer, Bos, visited 78 villages of the Konyak tribe in Nagaland on foot— some of which were Shiyong, Changlangshu, Longching, Angphang, Chen Loishu, Sheanghah etc., — including some Konyak villages in Myanmar.
“We walked through jungle footpaths and even during monsoon and winter. There were times when they had to visit a particular village two to three times as we wanted to take a lot of photo of the same person from different angle and also when I wanted to clarify some doubts. It took nearly four years to complete the book,” explained Konyak.
‘The Konyaks: Last of the Tattooed Headhunters’ was released at the Hornbill Festival at the Naga Heritage Village Kisama on Dec. 1 2017.
The book also won the ‘best illustrated book of the year’ during the Publishing Next Industry Awards on Jan. 2018.
Konyak said there were more projects she was working on to follow the book. She said to be working on another book, which will take a few years to complete.