Apr201105
Tattooed Women of Myanmar
12:11 PM
burma tattoo.jpg
This past weekend, the AFP reported on ancient tattoo practices having a contemporary appeal in Rob Bryan's article "Myanmar's tattooed women lure tourists."

In it, you'll read stories of the few remaining Chin women who bear the facial tattoos of their ancestors, a rite of passage and act of beautification for young women that is vanishing as the new generation of Chin have not see its aesthetic appeal. They are, however, seeing how it could prove lucrative. As Rob Bryan reports:

Aware their days are numbered, the unusual-looking elders are embracing the outside interest in their lives, having struggled to get by on traditional income sources of farming and logging.

"Late in life they are using their unique and soon-to-disappear looks as a way of earning money for the betterment of their impoverished communities," said Simon Richmond, a researcher for the Lonely Planet guidebook to Myanmar.

The article also discusses the ethical debate on "human zoos" -- exploitation or education/documentation?

When one of the Chin woman is asked how she feels about the tourists, she says that she welcomes those wishing to learn more about her and her heritage, adding "Sometimes I feel like my parents' spirits are coming back to me through the visitors."

I recommend a full read of the article.
...

For a related look at the traditional tattoos of that region, read Lars Krutak's article for the Vanishing Tattoo: "Tattoos of Indochina: Supernatural Mysteries of the Flesh."


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Marisa Kakoulas
CONTRIBUTORS:
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
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