Tribal Wood Carving
In Nagaland, wood carving as an art form relates mainly to architecture, and ceremonial dining utensils. It has been the forte of most of the 17 chief Naga communities in both eastern and western portions of the state. Wood sculpture is traditionally and continues to be practised only by males of the community.
However, the Naga, Konyak, Phom and Angami societies are particularly noted for their astounding wood carving skills. All the other communities have comparable skills, but are renowned by signature styles with noticeable alterations in the practice and representation of designs and signs. Previously, each male of the community had some sort of rudimentary wood working expertise; nowadays, the skill is limited to professional master artistes who have made it a self-employment or profession. Themes of bisons or mithuns and human heads are shared by all tribes, but gradations of the use vary.
Nagaland as a whole is lively with a rich utensil wood craftsmanship custom which has its roots in an animistic past: a vanished culture of magnificent huge wood-carved structure facades, and village entrances with the mithun or the Indian bison horns and skull overlooking all else with their immense visual appeal. The mithun head and house horns were the utmost influential wood-carved elements, especially among the Angami and Chakhesang and to a lesser extent, the Ao and Sumi (Sema) tribes.