The Chin tribes are from Chin and Rakhine States in Myanmar. Not all women were tattooed and it is not known how long ago the practice started.
There are a few theories on why the practice started, with the most popular being: hundreds of years ago, to deter a lusty marauding King regularly kidnapping Chin women, renowned for their beauty, villages tattooed the women’s faces to make them unattractive or even ‘ugly’.
Tattooing of girls began from as young as seven years old with homemade inks poked into the skin with citrus thorns. Sometimes the girls had to endure the intense pain over several days. Various clans can identified by their distinctive facial tattoo patterns. The Military government banned facial tattooing when they came to power in the early 1960’s with penalties or livestock fines imposed as a deterrent. Today, in some of the remoter regions you can see some younger women with tattoos who have proudly defied the ban.
On my first visit to the Chin Hills, I met women of the M’uun clan who sport a disctintive ‘B’ pattern on their cheeks. They are the main subjects of this portfolio. The small villages are found on the steep ridges of hills and usually involve a strenuous trek to get there. Men are keen hunters with many huts adorned with trophy skulls as a sign of their hunting prowess. Further research has uncovered many different facial patterns and the long-term goal is to document as many of these clans and their tattoos as possible before they vanish.
About Tim Yare
I work in the Shipping industry in Newcastle, Australia and try to travel as often as I can to places where I can photograph and document places and people that are about to undergo change, sometimes beyond their control. Thankfully, there are places where globalization has not reached fully yet and there are people who still lead traditional lifestyles, growing their own food and making things by hand – these are the subjects I like to photograph. Ultimately, I would love to pursue photography full-time and enjoy street and environmental portrait photography.