"A Flower In The Forest"

The Red Dao wedding dress is seen as the summit of success in a women’s sewing accomplishments. Mother and daughter are known to spend up to a year making nothing else but a brand new ceremonial outfit, in preparation for the big day.The Dao have maintained their traditional culture in costumes and language. Although they include many groups living in many different localities, they speak one language.They have preserved a close-knit community which respects traditional spiritual beliefs and rituals. Ly May, and Cheo Ta May, welcomed me into their homes on two separate rainy afternoons to meet their daughters, Twenty six year old Tansu May, and twenty four year old Ly Ta May. My guide had arranged with them to allow me the privilege to photograph them in their wedding attire. The clothing was carefully removed from an array of different coloured plastic bags, and they were stored inside a large bamboo basket. I asked if I could borrow one of Ly May`s plastic chairs and convinced my guide that the only way I would have enough light was to place the ladies under the protection of the overhanging roof. The chair was placed in the open courtyard while an umbrella was held over me. The rain continued for the entire time and the location and lighting were the best that I could achieve. There was a lot of laughter from the ladies at my difficult and unpleasant situation. At Cheo Ta May`s house I used an overhanging tree branch to partially protect me as they dressed under the eaves.

Tight FitTight Fit©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Ly Ta May wearing a tight fitting head-piece
Prepared CarefullyPrepared Carefully©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Tansu May preparing to receive her wooden head-piece
Laughter in the rain©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Laughter in the rain
The Red Dao in Lao Cai have very strict regulations which become principles in marriage. Based on regulations, the order of middle names of each family, members in the community are aware of these relationships and they can not marry in the first nine generations. Around the age of 8 most girls start learning hand embroidery from older female relatives. By the time they reach a marriage appropriate age, a women’s ability to sew is deemed as one of the a desirable qualities a potential husband is looking for. Before going to the groom’s home, a Red Dao bride is prepared carefully, has make-up put on and is covered with a veil, then waits to be brought to the home by the bridegroom’s family.
Try AgainA vert tight fit©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved Third Piece with Silver TasslesThird Piece with Silver Tassles©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved  
Meticulously stitchedLy May and daughter Tansu May©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved Cheo Ta May and daughter Ly Ta May©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved  
On the way to her husband’s house, a Red Dao bride will hide her face behind a large red brocade cloth, while the musicians escorting her beat drums and play a reed oboe known as the “ken”. The wedding ceremony often lasts for 3 days and 3 nights. A Red Dao bride walks veiled to the grooms house in a carnival style procession with an entourage of musicians, singers and guests by her side. Once at the house the local shaman performs a series of rituals, offering gifts of food and wine to the ancestors and chanting spells to expel evil spirits and bless the new couple with happiness and longevity.
Village Affair©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Head Scarf Ly Ta May©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved Traditional FashionCheo Ta May©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
The women are still grooming themselves in the traditional fashion of having a receding hairline and plucked eyebrows. The first significant piece of embroidery each woman makes is her head scarf. Each head scarf made shows the individuality and skill of the embroiderer. No two scarves are the same. The fabrics used today are primarily cottons purchased from the markets along with cotton and synthetic embroidery threads.
Cheo Ta May plucking hair©Kieron Nelson 2017 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Cheo Ta May plucks along her hairline to make sure no hair shows beneath the headdress, which is worn not only for beauty, but for protection from the cold wind and fog of Sapa.

 

 


Comments

Amanda Lawry(non-registered)
Amazing! Thanks for showing us another vanishing tradition Kieron.
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