Written by Khumtia Debbarma and translated from Kokborok by Bibhuti Debbarma
Bamboo is a huge part of the daily lives of the tribals in northeast India. In Tripura, the muli variety of bamboo (Melocanna) is the one commonly used in tribal villages. Right from using bamboo to cook food to making houses and their boundary fences, roofs and walls, tribals in Tripura are skilled in using this versatile resource from the jungle to create things we need in our day-to-day lives.
The boundary fence of any house is important to keep animals at bay. The horizontal part of this fence is created using a 12-foot-long straight bamboo. The cylindrical bamboo is then cut into 4 vertical pieces to create khwtwng, or a fencing thread. The edges of these pieces are blunted with the help of a knife. Following this, 5-foot-long pieces are also cut in a similar fashion to make the vertical fencing threads.
To create the structure of the fence, 4 pieces of the 12-foot pieces are placed on the ground, with 2 pieces facing upwards and 2 facing downwards. Then, a 5-foot-long piece is weaved into the 12-foot ones, alternating its position, above and below the 12-foot piece. The next 5-foot piece is weaved into the 12-foot ones alternating the position, and so on and so forth until the fence structure is completed.
Once the creation of the body is completed, a 12-foot-long bamboo is cut into 2 pieces, and these pieces are tied to both the horizontal sides of the fence. This strengthens the fence.
To do this, bamboo poles are installed along the boundary, for which one needs to dig the ground at equal distance throughout the boundary. Once the bamboo poles are inserted, mud is dumped at the bottom of each pole to help it stay in place. The deeper the bamboo digs into the ground, the stronger the boundary fence.
After the installation of the poles, the fence is tied to the poles with the help of iron wires. This process is usually carried about by the people who need the fence itself, since almost every person in the community is well-versed with the process.
In a time when almost everything can be purchased from the market, Tripura’s tribals are still keeping the art of self-sufficiency and sustainability alive. After all, how many people do you see nowadays building fences with their own hands?
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Mr Basanta Debbarma of the Sepahijala district in Tripura for showing me this process and allowing me to document it.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.
About the author: Khumtia Debbarma is a resident of Tripura. She has completed her BA and wants to be a social worker. She likes to sing, travel and is an avid photographer and video editor.