"Burden Of Beauty"

I did not expect to encounter the Padaung tribe on my trip to Burma  (now called Myanmar) in the winter of 2001. I had photographed the Kayan earlier in Thailand. You have to pay a hefty entrance fee  where the Kayan have found dubious refuge in the artificial tourist villages along the borders.  Often referred to as the Long Neck Karen, the women are actually refugees from Karenni State, located west over the border from Mae Hong Son. In the Burmese language they are called Padaung, but this is also  inappropriate, and in their own language, they are called Kayan. We were about to board our boat on Inle Lake to take us to our accommodation for the night, when I noticed a young girl peering out of the window of a small house. She was wearing the brass rings, and obviously looked sad. I asked my guide about the situation, and she told me that it was a very lucrative business to own and display a Kayan family. "Should I move on, or take the time and money to photograph the family?" This was the question I put to my Burmese guide. She suggested "You could help them a little by paying the owner, and try and give some money to the mother when he is not looking." It was obvious that once he had his money he did not care what the family were doing. I spent a short amount of time photographing the family, and then we talked to the mother. I placed the money in her hand while I shook it to leave. As we left, she said something to my guide. I asked her later, in the boat, what she had said. She told me "They are saving their money, and hoped that by the next time she came to this area, they would have enough money to escape the situation they endured."

©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

From the age of five, young girls’ necks are wrapped in brass coils, pushing the collar bone down and collapsing the lungs so that, by the time they are teens, their necks appear to be elongated. This young girl, her mother, and aunt, were kept by the owner of a restaurant for tourists to view in a zoo-like area.


Comments

Priya Balan(non-registered)
This is so sad. I cant believe why they do such things. It is always women who suffer why can't men wear rings like this and walk about.. I get annoyed with civilization when the woman are always the scapegoat!.. Its so sad. !
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