Using Naga motifs to weave stories of a land, a culture, and its people

Viko Ethnic Production

Artisan-Owned • For-Profit • B2B2C

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STARTED IN 2019

By Vekuvolu Dozo

LOCATION

Dimapur, Nagaland

PRODUCTS

Home Furnishings & Accessories

CRAFTS

Backstrap a.k.a. Loin Loom Weaving

ARTISANS

13

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DID YOU KNOW?

Backstrap loom a.k.a. loin loom is considered to be one of the oldest devices for weaving cloth and the Nagas use it to weave exquisite textiles.

Vekuvolu, Viko to her friends, is from Nagaland, one of the 7 states in the Northeast region of India. An ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct people, they boast of a rich, vibrant tribal heritage. 

Viko learnt how to weave from her aunt when she was 18, post which she got married. In Naga culture, the women must know how to weave on a loin loom because a ritual in her Chakhesang tribe involves the bride gifting a shawl to the groom.

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Most girls are taught how to weave early on by their mothers. Viko had to give up weaving after marriage as her husband had a transferable job and she travelled with him. 

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She picked up weaving again when she was 27 upon the encouragement of her friend. Today, she’s 38, a mother of 5, and her passion for weaving has evolved into a small business enterprise, where she works with a team of 13 college dropouts, homemakers, mothers, and widows, providing them with additional means of income. 

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Viko is a loin loom weaver. Weavers create a continuous warp stretched between two parallel bamboos, one end tied to a post and the other end held by a strap worn around her lower back to regulate the tension with her body.

Viko specialises in weaving soft home furnishings in cotton in both traditional colours and motifs as well as contemporary designs, made possible from the Naga loin loom fabrics.

 
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Naga motifs are symbolic of many things in their life and surroundings. They also use motifs that speak of warrior tales and inner strength.

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“The Mithun heads, dao (traditional weapon), spears, arrows and animal representations (tiger, elephant, birds), when woven into the fabric reflect heroic tales of our ancestors, and speak about our culture in different ways; which is the true beauty of handwoven fabrics. They are not just visually appealing motifs but handwoven narratives of our tradition and culture.”

— VEKUVOLU DOZO, FOUNDER, VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
 
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CHALLENGES

1

Geographical isolation from rest of India

The region has faced many problems due to ongoing insurgency that has lasted for over 5 decades. Plus, it lags behind the rest of the country on many fronts contributing to its continued isolation and under-development.

 
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SOLUTIONS

Antaran, a key intervention of the TATA Trusts’ Craft-based Livelihood Programme, works with weaving clusters and helps artisans learn how to balance their traditions, leverage their skills and create marketable products.

Access to new markets
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“Antaran has been instrumental in enabling me to be a small entrepreneur and orients us on the importance of using sustainable methods while creating textiles. They provide systematic exposure to online business through social media and help us connect with B2B buyers.”

— VEKUVOLU DOZO, FOUNDER, VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
Assist weavers with design ideas, sourcing yarns, and pricing 
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“For me personally, this journey has been an extremely fruitful one. Not only am I learning how to market and promote my work through Instagram but I am also learning details about hashtags, clicking pictures, etc. Sometimes my children also pitch in by taking photos. I designed an exclusive range of home furnishings inspired by stories of our tribal culture with help from the Antaran design team as part of a special collection. I also co-design with customers as per their choices.”

— VEKUVOLU DOZO, FOUNDER, VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
Empowering artisans with the skills to independently navigate markets
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“I feel it is imperative that we understand market demand, experiment with new products, motifs, colours, material, learning more sustainable techniques and even creating a presence on social media.” 

— VEKUVOLU DOZO, FOUNDER, VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
Set up Antaran Artisan Connect, an e-commerce platform for artisans covered under the Antaran programme
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“Before Antaran, I sold my products in the local market. I now weave for orders that I get through Antaran Artisan Connect. I got great support especially during COVID-19 and the lockdown, when a lot of my cushions got a phenomenal response and I made some very credible associations with the customers. I am now also receiving repeat orders.”

— VEKUVOLU DOZO, FOUNDER, VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
 

Handmade offers a socio-economic safety net in sensitive, craft-rich regions like the Northeast that have historically been excluded from development. 

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“We must remain connected to our crafts and that should be the first step for our future generations to thrive and take the practice forward. It is entirely on us to sustain, innovate and bring new value to the craft while remaining rooted to our culture. This will encourage the next generation to keep the craft of our ancestors alive and get good financial returns, while sustaining the tradition of our weaving.”

— VEKUVOLU DOZO, FOUNDER, VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
 
PHOTOS & VIDEOS COURTESY VIKO ETHNIC PRODUCTION
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