Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
The Mizo are a large sub-group of the Chin (also known as the Zo, Lai or Kuki), a loosely related group of two million people living in the hills of western Myanmar (Burma), northeastern India, and southeastern Bangladesh. The Mizo strive to attain merit through success in hunting, war, accumulation of wealth, and communal feast giving involving a series of five separate feasts. A Mizo man who has either hosted two complete series of five communal feasts or killed an entire series of wild animals attains the greatest merit and is known as Thangchhuahpa. Such men were held in high esteem. A textile called the Thangchhuah puan announces these accomplishments. No image of an early Thangchhuah puan has yet been published. This paper recounts the politics involved in the acquisition of three of these important Mizo cloths made before 1930: one by the Pitt Rivers Museum through a British administrator (figure 1 [detail]), one by the British Museum Centre for Anthropology through a British missionary who had obtained it from the warrior chieftain Savunga and one by The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. through US researchers (figure 2 [detail])who had obtained it from the granddaughter of the maker, Mitinchhingi (figure 3 on left), whose husband completed the feast series. It discusses the importance and ceremonial use of these cloths in the Mizo culture. It describes the material makeup, the structure and pattern of the cloths. And it relates the continued use of these cloths in modern Mizo culture.