Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday stressed the need for a geographical indication (GI) tag for Naga traditional attires in order to prevent their misuse by those who are not well versed in their motifs and symbols.
“The Naga traditional attires have so much symbolism attached to them that wearing them correctly and on appropriate occasions is taken very seriously,” Rio said.
“We have in the recent past been reading and hearing about misrepresentation and incorrect usage of our traditional designs in fashion shows and on clothing being sold on e-commerce websites without any regard for the people who hold these symbols in high regard,” he said.
To curb cultural appropriation, Nagas should take steps to ensure that their precious heritage is protected under legal provisions such as intellectual property rights (IPR) and geographical indications (GI), Rio said.
A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
“Only after acquiring such legal protection, the Nagas can start controlling and regulating the use of their traditional attires, symbols and ornaments,” Rio said.
In this regard, an eight-member government committee headed by Nagaland Handloom & Handicraft Corporation Limited (NHHCL)
Chairman Miathou Krose held its first meeting with all tribal bodies and women’s organisations in the state.
The government asked different tribes of the state to constitute their own committees to work in tandem with the government panel for the final documentation.
Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said, “The issue of cultural appropriation should be taken in all sincerity because unregulated use of our cultural designs and symbols will lead to distortion and misrepresentation.”
Clarifying that he is not preventing others from using the traditional Naga attires, nor stopping entrepreneurs from doing business in such clothing, he said what is important is they have to be appropriately used.
The traditional attires and ornaments are the identity of a Naga and not just fashion materials and there are stories behind every design and pattern, which have been passed down orally to generations, the NHHCL chairman said.
“With no written documents available, oral history is slowly disappearing and therefore the urgency is there to move ahead in documenting it,” Krose said.
“Our shawls and traditional attires are very beautiful. We can identify one’s tribe by the traditional attires and ornaments the person wears,” he said.
Nagaland has 17 major tribes. The Chakhesangs are the only tribe among the Nagas to have GI tagged their traditional attires, Krose said.
“Unless the tribes themselves come forward, the government will not be able to protect the rich cultural heritage of the Nagas,” IT adviser Mmhonlumo Kikon.
The Patent Information Centre of the Nagaland Science and Technology Council has been made the nodal agency for catalysing promotion and facilitation IPR related activities in the state and the tribes should take full advantage of the facility, Kikon said.
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