The Konyaks - a once fearsome headhunting tribe in Nagaland on the border of Myanmar in northeast India - are well known for their iconic body and facial tattoos, originally earned for taking an enemy's head. This book - over four years in the making - is the personal journey of a Konyak woman who retraces the steps of her grandfather and great-grandfather by documenting her tribe's tattooing practices. She explores the Konyak's concept of beautification of the body using it as a canvas for art, with inscriptions marked on the skin as a form of rite of passage and cycle of life. With elegant and powerful portraits of elders, both men and women, this book preserves the unique but vanishing practices of the culture, together with tattoo patterns, their meanings, and the oral traditions attached to them in folktales, songs, poems and sayings. It includes descriptions and information on headhunting and tattooing practices; reasons behind them; techniques used; tattoo artists; different tattoo groups; types of tattoos; and personal stories.
Phejin Konyak is the great-granddaughter of tattooed headhunter Ahon, who was a prominent member of the Konyak tribe. He was the interpreter for J.H Hutton, the first ethnographer to venture into the Naga Hills, whose book Diary of Two Tours in the Unadministered Area East of the Naga Hills, was published in 1926. Phejin lives in Shiyong village, Mon District, Nagaland, India. In between running her farm and writing, she travels to remote villages to continue her work documenting tattoo patterns and spending time with tribal elders. Peter Bos is a professional portrait photographer who has travelled the world to record unique - often disappearing - cultures. William Dalrymple is a well-known historian, journalist, and author of eight books, including several on India.
Contents: The Konyaks; Headhunting; Traditional Tattooing Art; Tattoo Artist; Face Tattoo Group SHEN-TU; Body Tattoo Group TANGTA-TU; Nose Tattoo Group KONG-TU; The Last of the Tattooed Headhunters; Glossary.