Fiercely Modern: Art of the Naga Warriors on display in New York

Fiercely Modern: Art of the Naga Warrior – An exhibition about the Naga tribes living on the border between India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur) and Burma has been running from April 26 and it will continue till September 26 at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street in New York (USA).

The Nagas had the reputation for being fearsome headhunters. They produce decorative ornaments, expressive wood carvings, and vividly colored textiles.

The exhibition’s most attractive objects are those worn by warriors, including bracelets, chest pieces and elaborate ceremonial headdresses made from metal, beads, feathers, animal bones and teeth, dyed hair and fur. Curated by Jan Van Alphen and Installation photography by David DeArmas.

Due to the efforts of American Baptist missionaries in the 20th century, the Naga became fervent Christians. However, their ancient customs and habits remain alive under a layer of Christian devotion. Originally assembled by Christoph von Furer Haimendorf in the 1930s, the collection has been augmented in recent years. The exhibition will also include ceremonial costumes and weapons and large-scale photographs of Naga people.

To contemporary Western eyes, however, the most sophisticated works are the shawls and wrap skirts, which, in the Naga’s strict division of labor, were woven exclusively by women. (Basketry was the men’s purview, and the show includes some impressive examples of that craft.) With their stripes, grids and zigzagging lines producing rhythmic geometric patterns, the textiles on view look as if they were designed by a mid-20th-century Modernist like Anni Albers.

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