UPDATE: The mall on 42nd Street where this shop was located has been closed. September 2003
>> On October 23rd, 2002, I interviewed Shilok Lama, manager of a stunning shop that features imported Nagaland jewelry and crafts from India. When I returned three days later, more than a third of her jewelry, purses and wall hangings were gone. Just one month old, her shop is thriving within a highly competitive 42nd Street shopping environment.
Most of the shop's fine jewelry was designed by Ms. Lama's mother, Dicky Doma, a New Delhi native, who has designed jewelry for over 30 years (examples in photo 2). Prior to opening this shop, however, Ms. Doma's American customers (many from California) had to visit New Delhi to make their selections.
The multi-strand jewelry, beaded wall hangings, and bead-encrusted purses you see displayed in photos 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7 are mostly the handiwork of Nagaland natives (the Naga Fall) and Tibetans who fled to that area after Communist China took over their territory (map 4). Although this closely-packed, very dense type of bead work is famous, global-access to the Naga homeland was extremely limited until the very late 1900s and it is not widespread.
Over thousands of years, the Naga tribes were fiercely self-sufficient, with no need of continental governments. They strongly defended themselves from plundering cultures by living as jungle nomads, attacking outsiders when least expected. Today, however, under pressure to conform with Indian and multi-national interests, they export bead work and jewelry that at one time was their culturally-defining craft.
Classical Naga necklaces, worn by tribal men and women, often consist of numerous beaded strands such as seen in the 5th photo. The necklace-ends can be finalized by small sheep horns (left), wrapped threads (middle) or knitted string (right). The actual hook might be carved into a horn or bone, or a button made from a small bead or coin.
A wide variety of materials can also be incorporated into these finely-beaded necklaces, including semi-precious stones, metal castings, and carved bones. This variety can be seen in the necklaces designed by Ms. Doma (photo 2).
A less traditional use of bead work is seen on the wall hangings and picture frames. These are covered with Tibetan three-dimensional beading techniques normally reserved for clothing (hats, chest-pieces, and purses).
Although the shop doesn't have a formal name, you can find it by visiting the Times Square Mall on 42nd Street near 6th Avenue (photo 8). This small mall is subdivided, with Ms. Lama's being the fourth stall from the front doors on the right-hand side. For more information, write Tenzin Lama at email@example.com. All letters in the email address must be lower case.
Next to the Times Square Mall is the 42nd Street Bazaar, which used to be located on 5th Avenue. It, too, has booths for importers, with displays starting at the sidewalk. Both places provide wonderful shopping opportunities and high-quality imports, although the Times Square Mall is classier.
For more information on Nagaland and its arts, consult the book Nagas: Hill Peoples in Northeast India by Julian Jacobs, Sarah Harrison and Anita Herle. Also consult the lavishly illustrated Traditional Jewelry of India by Oppi Untracht.
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