“To these women, beauty meant power – the power of seduction.”
Who are these women? Jens Uwe Parkitny, a successful marketing executive currently living in Singapore, wanted to answer this question over 15 years ago. In the 1990’s, he traveled to over 25 countries on journalistic assignments, gaining a particular curiosity in indigenous people groups. But it was his encounter in 2001 with a Burmese woman with facial tattoos that particularly touched him and led him on a mission to photograph these tribal women extensively throughout the Chin State.
In his catalogue for the 2010 exhibition at the Munich Museum of Ethnology he explains, “It is hard to describe the sensation each time I return to a Chin village and look into the tattooed face of a young Laytu woman. It’s a mixture of attraction and admiration, and “being drawn in.” In other words: I can’t stop looking at her as the fine lines of the typical web-like tattoo actually emphasize the natural beauty of the face and its unique shape and form. The web serves its purpose. I am drawn to it like a fly. Each design of an individual tattoo, though similar in its basic design within a certain group, is “customized” to the individual features of a face, making each tattoo unique. Unique, individual beauty: it seems what Chin women are striving for is not so very different from the ideal of their Western peers.”
Jens collection of photographs certainly captures this individual beauty. Yet, it’s a fleeting beauty. The tradition of tattooing young girls in the Chin state is becoming a thing of the past. It seems that the tradition will die with the last of the tatooed elders, leaving these women to only be seen in photographs. Thankfully, Jens Uwe Parkitny captured these women through his camera lens in such a captivating way.
I stumbled across Jens’ efforts and was completely in awe when seeing the first photograph. The woman was strong, humble and beautiful despite the ink that webbed over her face. The women do certainly draw you in, but even more so through Jens’ camera lens.
I personally reached out to Jens and was delighted to learn that the proceeds from the printing of his photograph book Bloodfaces -Through the Lens: Chin Women of Myanmar go to a training school of girls in Mayangon Township in Yangon (a government orphanage for girls between 4 – 16 years old) as well as the monastery Aung Zay Yar Min in Hlaing Township, Yangon that feeds daily more than 750 children twice a day. Copies are only available for purchase in Yangon, so Jens was kind enough to send me his exhibition catalogue. It’s filled with stunning photography and commentary on the different ethnic group’s tattooing traditions. I loved reading through it and will certainly keep it on my coffee table for years to come.
A Gift from Jens Uwe Parkitny and The Global Commute
Jens was also generous to provide one for a reader of The Global Commute! Just leave a comment below this week for your chance to win! I am happy to ship it for free to literally anywhere in the world. Just tell me where you are from and what you would like to see more of on The Global Commute – perhaps your country could be featured in the next Global Series!
May the best traveler win… and thank you again Jens for your generosity and artful work.
Feature photo and all quotes courtesy of Jens Uwe Parkitny