High in the mountains of Myanmar lives the Chin tribe whose women still bear the scars of a ‘barbaric’ ancient tradition. These women have their faces tattooed in the age of 12 to 14 no matter to which Chin tribe they belong : the Munn, Dai or Mkang.
According to the legend this tradition is hold to make women so ugly so they would never be kidnapped for an ancient king who wanted concubines. With a variety of styles and designs the detailed markings have a deep rooted cultural significance to the largely Christian community.
The tradition was stamped out in the 1960s but the older women still live with their scars. They also wear enormous earrings which stretch their skin. Since then the tradition has taken a life of its own and is regarded as an important cultural practice among the Chin people.
One of the photographers, Teh Han Lin made extremely intricate photos during his recent trip to Myanmar. During the stay with a tribe, the Han managed to find out how they make such intricate designs of the tattoos with such crude instruments: ‘The tattoos are done using thorns with a mixture of ox bile, plants and animal fat. The process is extremely painful, especially the tender eyelid area and it normally takes one day to finish, it can be extended to two days depending on the complexity. The recovery itself may take at least two weeks.’
However now the tradition is mostly preserved in elder generation, as the barbaric custom gets outdated by the youth.
Both the Mkang and Dai have similar designs for the tattoos, which includes squares filled in with tiny dots, the women from the Dai sub-group tend to go for a dark blue whereas Mkang women go for a more blue-green colour.
Take a look inside one of the houses where women with tattood faces and huge ear-rings spend their life.
As you can see from the photo a boy is wearing a western style clothes – a definite sign that times tend to change even here.