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Nyimsao and Kheseto

Identifier: Film Collection no. 165

Scope and Contents

Charles Suydam Cutting made this film while traveling through the Naga Hills of Assam in northeast India with a punitive expedition conducted by the British Naga district commissioner to curtail headhunting. Ethnographic footage of the Naga peoples is overlaid on a light fictional story about two men, Nyimsao and Kheseto. The story begins with Nyimsao entering a Sema Naga village, where he takes a nap. While Nyimsao sleeps, a Lhota Naga refugee steals his belongings. When Nyimsao awakens and discovers his loss, Kheseto is falsely accused of the theft and is banished into the hills. During Kheseto's wanderings through the hills, Cutting films a visual survey of the Naga peoples. After an egg diviner proves Kheseto's innocence, he returns to the village and a head-hunting expedition sets off to wreak vengeance on the real culprit. The attack is obviously staged: the Naga actors laugh throughout, their heads covered with fabric to represent decapitation, and swords tucked under their arms to depict death by stabbing. The Angami, Sema, Ao, Koniak (i.e. Konyak), Kabui, and Katcha (i.e. Kacha) are the Naga peoples filmed; they are culturally different from each other, with distinct languages, customs and dress. The ethnographic elements of the film include costumes and dancing (Kabui and Kacha), pottery making and rice beer processing (Sema), a pole and thatch bachelor house (Sema), weaving (Ao), and knife-like axes used by men for chopping hair and heads (common to all Nagas). Ceremonial stonepulling of the Angami and the accompanying feast (put on by a rich man for self-aggrandizement) are also seen. Examples of Naga daily activities include personal grooming and fire starting, which is accomplished by quickly pulling a bamboo strip across a piece of wood. In Manipur people attend public exhibitions of polo, hockey, wrestling, and boat racing. The expedition compound of the Konyaks is seen, with its sentry boxes and sharpened bamboo spikes with which they protect themselves from invaders.


  • [1930]

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (78 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 35 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (78 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 35 mm. print.


English subtitles.



Charles Suydam Cutting, photographer.

Nyimsao and Kheseto : a tale of the Naga Hills, [1930]
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
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