Accepted paper:

The aesthetics of weddings and the consumerist 'craze' among the Sumi tribe


Lovitoli Jimo (Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD))

Paper short abstract:

Since colonial times the Sumi tribe of Nagaland has been known for its lavish weddings. This paper looks at the different aspects of wedding practices, rituals and celebrations; the socio-cultural, economic and the political impact they have on the individual and Sumi society at large.

Paper long abstract:

The Sumi tribe of Nagaland has long been known for its lavish wedding celebrations. Sumi marriages are highly stratified and fall into four broad categories. Depending upon the social status and family line of the individual, marriage rituals are performed and Ameh (bridewealth) is given accordingly. With exposure to the forces of globalization, new dimensions have been added with respect to the manner and fashion in which weddings are celebrated, conducted and understood. There is an interface between tradition and modernity especially at weddings, where both the traditional practices and rituals and the Christian principles co-exist. When a Mithun is used in Ameh, which is generally the case when marriage is between equals, the bride's family is expected to give a reciprocal gift to the bride, all the ornaments and jewelries and the different kinds of shawls and wraparounds used by the Sumi tribe in pairs. The traditional practices and beliefs associated with fertility, wealth and long life etc are strictly followed. At the same time, the aesthetics and taste of weddings have changed and people are becoming more consumerist with the emergent middle class and the incursion of new values. Consumerist culture that is imbibed by the society has manifest as well as latent functions, putting the individual's social standing at stake. How the bride is attired and adorned and the kind and quantum of gifts exchanged become symbols of status and style statement. How and where weddings are celebrated is also important because these convey strong messages about the aspirations, tastes and social positions of the persons involved. Hence Sumi weddings need to be explored not as mere rites of passage but social events with high symbolic content.

panel P48
Weddings: identity and aesthetics in a globalising consumer world