Nagaland, Northeastern India
Warrior’s shoulder cloth / blanket
Cotton, red wool or dyed dog’s hair, cowries
57.5 in. X 37.25 in.
Good. Several small holes on the upper and lower edges and a few in the body. All have been stabilized with native repairs.
Traditional warrior’s shoulder cloths like this piece are called “asukeda-pi” and are rare. They are given to boys and men as they pass their initiation ceremonies. This particular one is even more uncommon because of the central human form motif. The form is constructed by dismantling three cowries circles or “moons” and then sewing them back onto the blanket to depict the human body. This is usually done when a warrior has taken a head. Further visual rank is seen on the upper right hand corner of the textile where two rows and one single cowrie are sewn for some unknown reason, but can be found on older Naga asukeda-pi
Rectangular form comprised of three hand woven panels of homespun cotton or hemp that has been dyed black makes up the body. Each panel averages about 12˝ inches wide. The two outermost panels are bordered with four light brown stripes. Sixty-three small supplementary weft squares of red wool or dog’s hair are symmetrically placed throughout the body of the textile. Twenty-one circles of white cowries shells measuring seven inches across signifying full moons create further embellishment. An interesting series of three small “dashes” are seen on the ends of each panel where the selvage edges are joined together and are created with a tan color thread so it can be seen against the black body. Like with the rows of cowries in the upper left hand corner, these “dashes” are also only found in older pieces and must represent some form of code or rank. The blanket terminates in short tightly twisted fringes at both ends.
For further reading see: The Nagas, Hill Peoples of Northeast India: Society, Culture and the Colonial Encounter, Julian Jacobs, 1990, Thames and Hudson Press, London for additional information.