Jewellery designer Gina Joseph gives us a peek into the life and style of theA� Nilgirisa�� colourful tribes.
As THE founder of Zola, a jewellery brand that works with folk artisans, Gina Joseph often travels around the country, seeking new inspiration. a�?Heading for the hills is an idiom Ia��ve often heard, but I put it to the test recently when I headed to the Nilgiris for some peace, quiet and creative thinking. Among the seven tribes there, the Badagas, Todas, Kotas and Paniyas live in and around Kotagiri. What started off as a field project on Badaga jewellery opened up so much for mea��besides a Toda-inspired line for Zola,a�? says Joseph. The a�?urban cynica�� says she was amazed by the hospitality of the people, and shares, a�?I stayed in Jaknarai, a Badaga village, and forayed out into the neighbouring settlements in the seven days I was there. I discovered that their jewellery is influenced by naturea��the shapes of the earrings, the inscriptions on the bangles, even the black-and-red Toda embroidery.a�? Here is our pick of photographs from the designera��s trip that showcase the tribea��s aesthetic offerings.
A�At Tamizhan mandu, a Toda settlement in Ooty, 75-year-old Narasammaa��draped in a traditional Toda shawl with poothkuli embroidery (similar to the tattoos men and women sported in earlier days)a��poses with her granddaughter.
A rare peek at the traditional Badaga jewellerya��kadagas (bangles), malaimani (necklace) and arnakair (waist belt)a��that is worn only during mande dandhu (the head shaving ceremony for baby boys).
The day before I bid goodbye to the Nilgiris, my host, Lakshmi, arranged a dance
performancea��with young girls from the village, dressed up in their traditional Badaga thundu mundu. Rustic and endearing.
At Kil Anaiyatty village, I met 70-year-old Lakshmi, who proudly showed off her A�traditional Badaga gold mookuthi (nose pin) and chinna (earrings), designed like a wheel.
I was fascinated by the jewellery of a 72-year-old Kota woman. Made of silvera��with motifs of seeds and flowersa��her father had made it for her when she was a teenage bride.
This antique silver ankle collar, worn by the women of the Irula tribe as an everyday piece of jewellery, dates back to the 1950s.
The mandatory click at a Toda temple. Constructed in a circular pit lined with stonesa��with the buffalo head as a recurring motifa��it is similar in appearance to Toda huts.