"Children Of The Horn"

 Changjiao Miao  live in the mountains 2,000 meters above sea level, in 12 villages located close to each other, with a total population of 4,000. I travelled to Guizhou China in the fall of 2008, and my main goal was to visit this fascinating culture. On a typical day, the women simply wrap their hair behind their heads around a sharp-ended wooden board. They wear the horns only on holidays and during festivals, together with the decorative hair bun made of linen, wool and small amounts of ancestral hair. The heavy ornament places extra strain on their neck's and waist's, leading to their typical walking posture. The hair bun can weigh up to 2 kilograms.

©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

I arrived during a rainy Tuesday after being bumped from my hotel room to another location. (Chinese officials were travelling in the area). The village appeared deserted, and well below the poverty line. My guide encountered two ladies in one of the homes who were sewing their traditional dress. They had their hair swept back over a large piece of wood in the shape of a horn.

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

As soon as they noticed me, they quickly scrambled and gathered an enormous bundle of black yarn and linen. My guide told me they wanted to demonstrate the art of putting on their trademark hair. The unpacking of the bundle was aided by standing on a small bench, and lifting the wool above the head. The length of the black yarn was at least seven feet.

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

They first fix the horns with their real hair, and then wrap the "decorative hair" around a wooden frame into the shape of a horizontal "8" and tie it to the horns with a piece of white cord.

©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

"Where are all the children?"  I asked my guide. A school had recently been built, and because it was a week day they were all attending. The rain finally relented, and the sun poked through the grey cloud. The laughter of children could soon be heard. They had left school early, as the Chinese officials who slept in my reserved room were coming to see the village. Children dressed in their finest Chinese jeans scurried to put on their costumes. Their hair buns were pre-made, and they only had to place and tie them on their heads. I was invited into their rooms to watch them prepare. I had travelled with sewing kits, tooth brushes, mirrors, and stuffed Canada bears, which everyone gleefully wanted.

©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

While photographing the girls, my guide asked me if I had noticed their teeth. Upon closer inspection when they smiled the decay was very evident. Recent samples of the drinking water have shown traces of mercury and aluminum, with small amounts of arsenic. The enviromental contamination is from mining areas in northeastern Guizhou.

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

One of my fondest memories of my time in the village is of  little "Duku", a name my guide gave to one of the girls. She was eight-years-old and a natural model. She followed us everywhere, and always had a great smile and pose for the camera. "Duku" was the youngest of three sisters. Ethnic groups in China are allowed two children, in China`s "one child policy". Her parents had to pay a fine to the local authorities, the equivalent of one year`s wages.  When we were leaving, I took her aside and gave her the Canadian amount of five dollars for being my village guide. She began to cry, and told my guide that she would use the money to help pay back her parents for choosing to keep her.

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

 


Comments

3.Vanishing Cultures Photography
Thank you Priya, she was a kind and sweet little girl. All the villagers were very welcoming.
2.Priya Balan(non-registered)
Little Duku is such a lovable child. It is so sad that they had a fine to pay. Did you get to feel the decorative hair from which it was made from? I do like the color combination and the texture of the hair. But it is sad that it was so heavy. Beautiful Images and lovely capture of Little Duku s smile.
1.Inquisitive06(non-registered)
The Taitoko family look just like them.
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