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Tribal Ornament Makers Face Material Shortage

Women workers engaged in tribal ornament making. Image Credit: Sangai Photo.

IMPHAL, Feb 3: Manufacturing of the traditional ornaments used by various tribal communities is becoming a dying profession in Manipur today due to lack of raw materials.

Despite the growing demand for these traditional ornaments of the tribal communities, worn both by male and female customarily or during festivities, artisans engaged in the trade have not been able to meet it from want of raw materials required for making these jewelleries.

Since the days of kings, the traditional ornaments of various tribal communities settling in Manipur are made either from bronze or brass or their alloy without the help of any machine.

With the rising rate of taking out bronze and brass from Manipur, the main raw materials required for manufacturing these ornamental items of the tribal communities are becoming almost impossible for the artisans to lay their hands on these days.

The traditional ornamental items of the tribal com- munities in Manipur like Koirengjao of the Kabuis, Khongjai Khuji Ayetpi (winding bracelet), Nathang, Huison, Nganuchinbi, etc are also being used as customary ornaments by tri-bal people in other places like Nagaland, Mizoram, Shillong, Dimapur and Guwahati.

According to Keisham Ongbi Maipak (67) of Keishampat Leimajam Leikai, who has been in the business of manufacturing these tribal ornamental items with the help of machine for the last many years, it is informed that  there was abundance of raw materials required for manufacturing these ornamental items earlier in Manipur. But now it is very difficult to get the raw materials as the rate of collecting the bronze and brass materials and taking them outside the State is becoming very high.

Maipak, who has been in this profession since 17 years of age, further informed that earlier most house- holds in Keishampat Keisham Leikai area were engaged in manufacturing the ornamental items of the tri-bal communities of Manipur.

But most of them have given up the trade now-a-days following shortage of raw materials as well as on account of the difficulty involved in manufacturing them without the help of machine. At present, there are only two smithies in the area which are still engaged in the business of manufacturing ornamental items of the tribal communities, she disclosed. It is said that mostly women are engaged in this profession and the price of the ornamental items ranges from Rs 700 to Rs 8000. Most of the artisans engaged in the profession of manufacturing ornamental items of the tribal communities are participating in the demonstration cum creative workshop on metal craft tradition of Manipur currently underway at Tribal Museum and Research Centre at Sagolband Bijoy Govinda Akham Leikai.

The demonstration cum creative workshop is being organized under the sponsorship of Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangsalahay (National Museum of Mankind), Bhopal. Keisham Ongbi Indu Devi, who is a participating artisan, informed that manufacturing of tribal ornaments is being carried out in her family since the days of forefathers. If an artisan is deeply involved in the profession, she can earn upto Rs 10,000 a month. ‘˜’˜For us this not just a profession but our livelihood. With the income, we are running the family and educating the children”, Indu said.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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