April 28, 2020
Behind The Piece
I am often asked about my shell bracelet, it has sat on my right arm for decades. It has only come off once, on the day my twins were born, and soon after it went back on.
It was made by the Naga people of North East India. The Nagas are a tribe that emigrated from Mongolia centuries ago into the border areas of now Myanmar and India. On the Indian side the Nagas have been involved in a struggle for independence since 1947.
I was lucky enough to work in Thailand with a Naga human rights activist many years ago. Luigam Luithui was a remarkable man to spend time with, learning about his home, community and culture, which as a refugee he was not allowed to return to. I was eventually lucky enough to get a permit to reach his village in Manipur to meet his family and attend his sisters wedding. A beautiful land of green hills and rolling rice paddies and small traditional villages.
For me, the bracelet symbolises for me both a protective shell and reminds me of a wonderful friend. Shells from the coast were traded for salt up to the mountainous regions and are used by the Nagas to make beautiful beads, necklaces and bracelets. They are old and worn smooth by years of wear.
Having worked in India for over for 25 years I find all the fascinating traditions of jewellery making in its diverse parts very inspiring.