By Imna Longchar
Dimapur( Nagaland) , April 7 : The rich art and crafts of Nagaland since time immemorial has always portrayed the artistic caliber and imaginative talents of the local craftsmen through their fine products of the traditional art of the state.
Many Naga artisan and craftsmen off late had brought many national and international laurels through their artistic craftsmanship, but among them is one gem from Tuensang district, K. Bukhai Khiamniungan, who is one of the few craftsmen making Naga headgears and other wooden crafts.
The 68 -year old Bukhai who received National Award in 1986 for excellence in Handicrafts went to Delhi to receive the same from the then President of India, late Ramaswamy Venkataraman, in the 1987, has many facet stories to narrate during his journey as craftsman till date.
In an interview with South Asia Views Bukhai disclosed that he had successfully completed a year’s advance training in fine cane and bamboo handicrafts starting in 1979, at Tuensang, which was organized by Development Commissioner for Handicraft, Ministry of Industry, which was conducted by experts from Delhi.
Armed with the National Award conferred on him for which he extended gratitude to the then President of India for recognizing his “hardwork”, it was only in the year 1983 that he opened his own business under the banner and style “Handicraft Cooperation Society Ltd”, at Polounyu Sector in Tuensang,dealing in different ethnic handicrafts items made out of both bamboos and canes while his “Naga headgear” was the signature for the award.
There was no stopping for him to generate an income between Rs.20,000 to Rs.30,000 initially especially during ‘VIPs’ visit during function (s) where his products were ordered to be gifted to the visiting dignitaries from both within and outside the state.
However, the sad narration of this President’s National Awardee , is that till date there was“no assistance” from the state government but was fortunate to have availed a loan to expand his shop before the Covid lockdown from the department of Industries and Commerce and he is still in dilemma of how to repay the amount of around Rs.3 lakhs to the lender citing reasons that immediately after he took the loan, the lockdown was imposed across the country.
On queried about “no assistance” from the Nagaland government despite being a Presidents’ National awardee, Bukhai lamented that there’s was no recognition given to him though till date, his products have been appreciated and pre-ordered to be gifted to the visiting dignitaries during the annual Hornbill Festival till the last edition and other state government programmes.
He was also a participant of the Hornbill Festival since its inception by opening a stall of his own through the Industries and Commerce, Tuensang for which he claimed that his business was better initially.
In this regard, the 68 – year old craftsman from Tuensang, has appealed to the state government in helping him or to look into the matter to repay the due loan.
On being asked whether he has plans to pass on his innate craftsmanship and other talents to the younger generations, the sexagenarian was of the view that due to his old age coupled with his poor vision, he has stopped designing and manufacturing new items but if the any youngsters are interested and willing to learn the art and craft, he is more than willing to teach them.
However, he further lamented that the youngsters doesn’t take keen interest in “art and culture” which have been “thrust” upon them by their fore fathers.
With a “Midas Touch” in his hands , this “unsung hero” who is , is “par- excellence” when his carving with any of the Nagas traditional “signatures” are concerned.
At the moment, the National Awardee is signing his art and craft with crafting cutleries including wooden and bamboo spoons, baskets, plates, spear, machete case, and also designing the traditional miniature Morung, locally made water container out of the traditionally available gourd which are available in plenty in the state though he is yet to be “acknowledged” for the same.
He further supplemented that he was also into crafting “indigenous products” including traditional bamboo made “rice beer mugs” with a bamboo woven case for the same, bangles and other accessories.