Monday, May 12, 2008

Apatani textile techniques 3 - Clothes

After having seen the techniques of production of yarns and tissues, it's time to introduce the products themselves, i.e. Tanii typical textiles. In olden days the Taniis had gained a local reputation for producing clothes of particularly good quality and elaborate patterns. According to anthropologist F├╝rer-Haimendorf Tanii shawls such as jig-jiro and jilan fetched good prices among their neighbours and were bartered, directly or undirectly, as far as the Upper Panior, the Khru Valley or the Upper Kamla areas (1980 : 61).
Two or three generations back, all garments used to be woven on the looms at home. But nowadays most -if not all- of the handloom products consists of ceremonial dresses only. And except for priestly attire, even these ceremonial items can now be bought from private shops or government emporiums. That is to say that the craft of weaving is being gradually forgotten, although many ladies are still preserving it to date.

Colors dominating the weaves are dark-blue, orange-yellow, blue and red. In particular, red (either flame-red or dark-red) is the dominant color of several female ceremonial garments. In the past colours were obtained using various plant dyes from species such as tamin (Rubia cordifolia; red-orange color) and sankhii (Eurya acuminata var. euprista; brownish-yellow color). Indigo blue, which constitutes the dominant colour of male ceremonial garments, was obtained from a plant called yango, but I was unable to identify the botanical name of this species. Because the process of colouring was long and tedious, today all organic dyes have given way to synthetic ones. However the change from hand-spun and hand-dyed thread used in weavings to factory produced thread and synthetic dyes has modified the look -and perhaps also the quality- of the fabric. Not only are the colors obviously synthetic, being overly bright, but the thread is thinner and breaks more easily.

In olden days the range of handloom production for a daily use was limited for both men and women. Most of the garments were produced in various shades of the same basic beige or whitish color. Men invariably wore a thick short sleeves cotton jacket (jikhe tarii) and a loincloth (sarbe). Women wore a similar jacket (kente tarii), and a wrap-around black and white skirt (kente abi). In addition, both males and females used to wrap themselves into coarse cotton shawls (kente pulye, kente taser) designed with formal arrangement of yellow and blue lines and bands. During the coldest months of the year they also covered their body with thick home-made woolen coats (tongo). Wool has never been produced by Taniis but was bartered or bought from outside. Another popular coat (jilya pulye) of different shades was made out of coarse silk also obtained from outside.

kente pulye

Kente tarii
and kente abi
(Photo sources : Verrier Elwin, Smithsonian Institute)

Jilya pulye can be folded into two and wrapped around the body (left), or two ends diagonally tied across one shoulder (right). The middle portion of the cloth can be held tight to the body by means of a belt.

jilya pulye

As one can expect, shirts and skirts for festive or ritual occasions bear more intricate patterns and are more colourful.

Ladies garments

shirts/jackets :
  • supun tarii : a sleeveless fringe white shirt richly decorated
  • tipya tarii
  • niiji abi : a red and white cotton skirt
  • bilan abi : a 3-vertical band (white, red and blue) cotton skirt
  • niihu abi : a 3-vertical band (white, red and blue) cotton skirt with strip design called abi hete.
  • chinyu abi : a 2- vertical band (black and white) cotton skirt used by older people, especially during Dree celebrations.
  • bisiir abi : a black and white cotton skirt
  • bisi-bilyi : a red skirt reserved for ceremonial occasions
  • piisa lenda (literally 'pine-road') : a below the knee length red and blue skirt, highly decorated, traditionally associated with young and unmarried girls.
supun tarii

bilan abi

piisa lenda. Zigzag motifs
represent 'pine roads'.
(Photo source : Ahinsajain's
gallery on Flickr)

chinyu abi (Photo source : Ahinsajain's gallery on Flickr)

Ceremonial dress worn by both males and females

- pyamin pulye : a fringe cotton shawl
worn on ritual or important occasions. This cloth is traditionally given to the new groom during the engagement ceremony (mabo-inchi)

pyamin pulye
(Photo source : Ahinsajain's
gallery on Flickr)

Ceremonial costume of nyibus
  • abyo : piece of woven cloth covering the head of the priest.
  • jikhe tarii : cotton jacket richly decorated with indigo motifs, mostly of losenge shape, with fringes at the bottom.
  • jig-jiro : a simple dark-blue fringe shawl with yellow stripes, especially worn during Myoko and Murung.
  • jilan pulye : a fringed shawl with intricated motifs, the most expensive piece of the ceremonial priestly attire. Jilan is required in most important rituals performed at the time of Myoko, Murung and Subu tanii.

jikhe tarii

(Photo source : ignca)

Jig-jiro (left) and jilyan pulye (right) (Photo source : Ahinsajain's gallery on Flickr)

Jig-jiro, jilan, etc. are also used by the general public during collective ceremonies such as penii, mida, subu tanii, murung, supung, etc. Modern versions of jilan, mostly without motifs, are now manufactured and sold for that purpose. But decorated jilan are not used in daily life, they are spared only for important occasions. Decorated jilan bear specific and codified patterns, especially losenges, but also double spirals which are typical of this cloth:

A closer view of jilan pulye motifs (Photo source : Ahinsajain's gallery on Flickr)

Commercial versions, which are woven on a different type of loom (see previous post), often replicate these motifs in a simpler form. Compare for example the double spiral motifs above and below :



Rome Mele said...

Excellent, this as well.
Why don't you guys come up with your own website, with a better domain name. I don't think such a good initiative for the apatani community would find trouble in getting a sponsor. Good !

NPR said...

Once again thanks for your comment and worthy advice. To be frank, I myself is not much computer and internet literate, this is only our initiative to preserve our Tanii language through internet medium. In future we will definitely think about your advice to own our personal website and domain.

Most of the posts in my blog could only come up because of my co-author PB. Without his efforts and devotions, I wouldn’t have published so many posts with my present occupation. I am really grateful to him for all his contributions here.

prava said...

nice collection again. I never knew about such a hidden treasure of colourful tradtional dresses of APATANI. Well done.

PB said...

Thanks, Prava

Anonymous said...

Great initiative ! wish you the best ahead. I only feel the pics of meats are a bit gory and might put off many readers.

PB said...

@ Anonymous,
Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words To be frank, I also had a similar feeling before adding that post about pig's meat, despite the fact that it is an important element of Myoko. I hope most people will keep visiting though...

NPR said...

Its needless to say that our Apatani culture is chiefly related with the co-existence of meats :)
Meat plays very important role in our society.

Although it appears bit a gory on computer windows, its very important part of our society and we need to do documentation work on this ugly(red meats) pictures for rest of coming Tanii generations.

kago binyo said...

i am happy to see my tribe apatani in net....thanks!!!!