Indigenous Wancho weaves | Eri Silk | Malkha

Wancho indigenous community of Longing district of Arunachal Pradesh is akin to Konyak tribe of Nagaland in their culture and ethnicity. While living with Wancho tribe, I saw their proximity with both Myanmar and Nagaland. I also experienced the ancient culture of body tattooing where each tattoo is marked on a specific part of the body when the person reaches certain age eg. the first tattoo for a woman is around the belly button when she is about five years old. These tattoos symbolise when the body must get ready to build strength of a certain region of the body. Nestled around the Patkai hills, many people of this tribe still follow their indigenous faith, polygamy and chieftain’s governance.

When I saw the Wancho weavers making those intricate weaves with synthetic yarns, my heart sank with disappointment. So, I decided to come back to this place with cotton yarn, a promise that took more than a year to fulfil. Once I got cotton from Salem, I knew it is not going to be easy to carry it to Longding. Also, it wont be easy to convince weavers to work with cotton who have now become used to weaving with synthetic yarn elasticity.

To my surprise, the enthusiasm of the weaves to be woven on cotton gave me enough adrenaline to get past these little glitches. Weavers soon took on the task of weaving Wancho motifs using cotton yarn, with the agency of their own creative liberty.

“You choose the motifs, you draws the patterns, you weave what your heart cherishes, you take your own time.”

I finally got to see the weaves after more than two years during my next trip to the region. Those moments are unforgettable when the weave is handed over hesitatingly by the weaver and the subsequent joy that is unanimously expressed between us. This shared moment makes each of these weaves an unforgettable memory. In the memory they becomes heirlooms.

They are heirlooms indeed! For they have lasted the test of time! For they are still alive and thriving and may continue for many generations if each one of us begin to visualise their longevity!

I name this narrow shawl after their main festival Ojiyele, also called Oriah!

Buyer Empowerments

Eri silk aspect of shawl
Wearable textile made with ancient spinning, weaving and dyeing techniques. Home- reared, Hand spun, hand woven following indigenous methodology.
100% natural, Protein- based, organic, hand-made, from nature-back to nature. Something to grow old with and then pass it on to loved ones.
Thermal insulation, Moisture absorption, UV protective, completely bio-degradable.
Wancho weaves aspect of shawl
One of a kind heirloom textile that brings together Wancho tribe weaving motifs with Eri Silk. Selvage of the weave brings a delicate intimacy of the two ends of the shawl.
Mill spun mercerised cotton yarn with Azo-free dyeing
Combined aspects of the shawl
One of a kind heirloom textile that brings together Wancho tribe weaving motifs with Eri Silk. Selvage of the weave brings a delicate intimacy of the two ends of the shawl.
Moderate. Double sided.
Weather/ Mood
Pleasant-not warm not cold. Should give warmth on a slightly nippy evening. Should also protect from blazing Sun.
Not fragile. Eri Silk can last a lifetime if well looked after. Backstrap loom weaves are also made to “last a lifetime” in their words.
Dry Clean only; Needs “Airing” in shadow, not direct sun. Do not wring. Occasional starch with uplift the drape. Be careful to not pull the yarn of weaves if ever they get entangled.
Ready to wear
Statement piece, heirloom , traditional translated to modern
Made in rural household. Weaves made by artisan at home in available time- supporting farming lifestyle.
In support of slow movement
In support of indigenous knowledge of Arunachal Pradesh.
No bargaining with artisans. Mutual decision-making.
No deadline/ pressure based work environment.
No gender structures assumed while designing the product.
In support of natural dyeing through resources available in neighbourhood
In solidarity with backstrap loom weaving
Supports non- industrial tailoring skills.
Faith in up-skilling unskilled artisans.
In support of grassroots initiatives like Malkha India
Wancho weaves made with support from Tongham Wangham, Arunachal Pradesh.
Eri silk handspun, hand woven with supervision from Narmohan Das under creative guidelines from Mora, Assam.
Malkha cotton by Malkha India.
Cotton yarn from Salem, Tamil Nadu.
Stitched by Gurmel Singh, Jalalabad, Punjab.
Tassels by Param, Bathinda, Punjab.
Imperfections in the weaves reflect handmade
Irregularity in the dyes reflect natural process
Innocent spots in the textiles reflect being homemade
A work of nature cannot be sterile and error-free
A choice to still buy what we make is a step
Towards supporting original culture
Of people
Of nature
Of craft

A celebration of humanness.
Mora Collective 2023
designed by: MIDTOAN