Dying art of wood carving gets a new lease life in Arunachal

Itanagar: The unique wood carving, practiced by the Noctes of Tirap district and Wanchos of Longding district in Arunachal Pradesh, which was a dying art till a few years ago, has now got a new lease of life, thanks to the state Textile Department.

Over the last few years, the demand for wood carving has been growing steadily, especially among the elites in New Delhi and Kolkata, sources in the Textile Department said.

The department is not able to meet the burgeoning demand of buyers for want of more master wood carvers. Most of the buyers like to decorate their drawing rooms with the exquisite wood carvings and to gift them to friends.

Earlier, the Noctes and the Wanchos used to make them to decorate posts and log drums in the Paa or Paang (boys? dormitory) or to decorate the village chief`s house.

"The subjects chosen for wood carving used to be very drawn from the everyday experiences of life and objects around them, but today in tune with the changing times the wood carvers are now also making figures of animals, birds and figures of important personalities," Dehang Bosai, district information and public relation officer, said.

"The range of subjects has increased manifold which is a good sign of progress," he said.

Necha Wangsu, a lady anchal Samiti member from Khonsa, headquarters of Tirap district, said more private operators should come forward and open more wood carving facilities to meet the growing demand.

The tree which is used for wood carving is called Pongmo in Wancho dialect which grows wild in the deep jungles. It grows well in the dry and rocky areas and has cotton-like white flowers which are very light. It can grow to a huge size when fully matured.

The master wood carvers say the older the trees, the better for wood carving. The main feature of this Pongmo tree is that its wood is soft, smooth and does not develop cracks easily.

"The best time to cut this tree is in October to November when insects and worms do not attack it. It normally takes 20-25 days to complete a human figure and it requires good sunlight to give the finishing touches like applying burnish and for drying," Bosai says.

Among the Noctes the people of Huakan, Laho, Moktowa, Lapnan and Hualam villages are known for this wood carving art.

Kapong Nokbi of Huakan village who is a master wood carver is presently serving as a wood carving demonstrator in textiles department, Khonsa. The new trainees will hopefully carry forward this rich and unique legacy of the Nocte forefathers.