Burma’s Chin Tribe – tattooed young girls to make them ugly so they won’t be kidnapped

Inside Burma’s Chin tribe where women have spent a lifetime scarred by a barbaric tradition High in the mountains of Myanmar lives the Chin tribe whose women still bear the scars of a barbaric ancient tradition.

When they were aged 12 to 14, these women had their faces tattooed in a painstaking process that took days to complete.
According to legend, the tradition started to make the women so ugly that they wouldn’t be kidnapped for an ancient king who wanted concubines.

The custom then continued until the 1960s when it was stamped out by the government but the older women still live with their scars. They also wear enormous earrings which stretch their skin.

With a variety of styles and designs the detailed markings have a deep rooted cultural significance to the largely Christian community.

Photographer and cyber security expert, Teh Han Lin took the intimate pictures on a recent trip to Myanmar.

He said: ‘When I planned to visit Myanmar I was researching about tribes there and I found out about the Chin tribe.’
There have been numerous theories into the origin of the face tattoos and why it only applies to women.

One of the most widely accepted reasons behind the face tattoos is that it was done to make the women look unattractive, thus preventing them from being kidnapped or forced to become a concubine.

Since then the tradition has taken a life of its own and is regarded as an important cultural practice among the Chin people.
Up until the 1960’s girls born into the varying Chin tribes which are the Munn, Dai and Mkang were expected to get their faces tattooed between the ages of 12 and 14.

The practice of face tattoos began to die out as a result of the Myanmar government stamping out the age old tradition as they believed it to be barbaric.

Teh Han said: ‘There were mixed feelings towards the ban, some were welcoming of the ban and some were against it. For those who were against it they were still practicing the face tattoos.’

Now in the remote town only the elderly women have the traditional tattoos, as the custom is increasingly seen as outdated by the younger generations.

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.

‘The Munn’s tattoo style involves straight lines from the forehead to neck with circles between the straight lines and small dots on the forehead and chin. The colour is lighter and mainly black,’ Teh Han added.

During his time spent with the tribe they shared the secret behind how they managed to make such intricate designs with very crude instruments.

He said: ‘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.’

Source: Mailonline

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