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Ethnic art forms disappearing from Arunachal

Itanagar: Many ethnic art forms in tribals-dominated Arunachal Pradesh are dying a slow death for want of support and patronage by local people who have been handed down the practices from past generations.

One of these is the making of dye which is practised by the Nocte tribes living in the higher reaches of Tirap district. Residents of Huakan, Moktowa and Thinsa villages in the district specialise in preparing it.

Denhang Bosai, district information officer, said, "The preparation of this traditional red dye is interesting and painstaking. The colour is extracted from a rare creeper normally found in the deep jungles and is called Bii."

"The literal meaning of Bii means poison and the creeper is indeed poisonous and must be handled with utmost care," Thingkap Nokbi from Huakan village who is an expert in dye preparation, said.

In order to prepare the dye, Bii are collected from the jungles. The bark of the creeper is chopped into pieces and then put in the bamboo tube for boiling. Then the white goat?s hair is arranged.

The permanent red dye is used in decorating the traditional paasong, a decorated spear and mooh, used to decorate the arm during festive occasions. These are made of goat?s hair. The stick on which the coloured goat`s hair is affixed is made of tisaan bang, a kind of wild palm. The other vanishing tribal arts practised by the Nocte tribe are the making of guns, salt, earthen pot and others many of which are not seen today.

Borduria village in the district was famous not only in Tirap district, but even in the plains of Assam for the black indigenous salt extracted from the many salt wells. Another art form, which is also disappearing, is the making of traditional pots. Even a few years ago Nocte tribals made earthen pots which were very popular in the entire Northeast. The pots were of different sizes. Dadam, Moktowa and Kothin villages were famous for this art.

Ranlit Nokbi, an artisan from Dadam village in Tirap district, felt administrative intervention was required to revive the moribund art forms.

The encouragement of the traditional practices would not only create employment opportunities for the disgruntled youths, but would also augment the economy of the districts, Nokbi felt.

Interestingly, traditional attires like paasong, mooh, pongpaah khaphok are again becoming popular with the tribals in the districts. "The revival of the attires would also encourage villagers to rear more goats as a spin-off as goat`s hair is the raw material for these ethnic dresses," Lihang Sumnyan, another artisan from the village, said.

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