- Feb. 14 2017 - Fading Bloodlines Expedition -
The Tattooed Women of Myanmar
- At the end of February, I will be teaming
up with Robin Brooks and Jessica Lindsay Phillips to travel to
remote areas of the northern Chin and Rakhine states in Myanmar.
Once considered a sign of great beauty, the women of the Chin
tribes of Myanmar had their faces tattooed upon coming of age.
This was practiced for an unknown number of centuries. These
markings represented gender, age, spiritual beliefs, race and
The arrival of colonial rule and Christian missionaries to Burma
in the 19th century instrumented a decline of this female cultural
tradition in villages and towns. Burma became a democratic nation
in 1948 and after 1962s coup which lead to a military dictatorship,
the Burmese Revolutionary Council placed a ban on the tattoos.
The tattoos, the women that bore them and this traditional practice
represented a way of life and beliefs that were from a regime
that those in charge were trying to get people to leave behind.
With the practice banned, fines and other reasons undetermined
led to the complete termination of this sparsely documented lost
Today, after a lifetime of wars and dictatorship, an unknown
number of these tattooed women, now in their 60s, 70s, 80s and
older, live in the remote areas of the northern Chin and Rakhine
Knowing that they are the last of their kind, a small number
of these women have been using their rare looks to draw tourism
as a way of earning money for the betterment of their impoverished
communities. However, many more tattooed grannies
live in areas unmapped and relatively untouched by the modern
Few westerners except a small handful of academics, photographers,
missionaries and intrepid explorers have gone beyond these tourist
villages to meet the tattooed women living in more remote areas.
The Fading Bloodlines expedition team will travel deep into this
remote region of Myanmar, an area where no post-colonial government
surveys or mapping has taken place. These time-locked states
house small populations of these tattooed women whos lives
were once threatened to the point that this cultural tradition
of facial tattooing is literally a couple decades from extinction.
The remoteness, absence of roads, and its unavailability to tourists,
has kept the area undisturbed by development, and ripe for exploration
and discovery. During the first three weeks of March 2017, a
passionate and skilled team of adventurers will embark on the
first cultural census and mapping expedition of its kind. They
will trek, bike, climb, cruise, crawl and navigate miles of arid
mountains, jungles, rivers, and unknown trails.
Some of the goals of the expedition
Document this vanishing cultural art and traditional way of life.
Carry out the first ever census of the remaining living tattooed
Chin women in the region as well as villages with families whose
previous generation practiced this cultural tradition.