The Chin people

Rakhine State, Myanmar January 2017.

The tradition says that the young girls of the Chin tribe are at high risk to be kidnapped by other competing tribes, so to scare away any aspiring kidnappers and to prevent abducts in taking place, the ladies of this tribe had a spider web tattooed all over their face. As the Myanmar law officially has put an end to this practice some forty years ago, only the older generations of Chin women still wear this decoration of a lifetime. The women proudly pose before the camera - showing off their intricate and fantastic facial tattoo artwork. The younger women use other "tricks" to compete with the elders perceived beauty and natural mud is popular all over Myanmar as skincare and as a beauty mask, protecting from the harsh rays of the sun.

In the western part of Myanmar, slightly north of Rakhine State well known for the Rohingya tragedy, you will find the remote Chin state. This mountainous state borders Bangladesh to the west and India to the north. From here, several big rivers run south towards the bay of Bengal, providing fertile grounds for the crops.

The Chin population is estimated to 1.1 million people and the state is only accessible for foreigners through a hard-to-get official permit that comes with many restrictions.  Roads are few and transport is primarily arranged on small river boats. Most villages are located along the riverbanks. It is the least populated and the poorest state of Myanmar.

The people of Chin are made up of many tribes and the language itself has many dialects. It is only approximately ten years ago that the Chin people got their own official language and most people remain illiterate. People mainly live in the rural areas with farming, forestry and hunting as their main occupation and source of income. Access to medicin, healthcare and hospitals is extremely limited and far too costly for the majority of the population - although cell phones seem to have become a household item amongst the younger generations. 

Most Chin people are animists by origin but missionaries brought Christianity and later on Buddhism to this area. Spending time here and staying with the friendly Chin people was for me a great privilege and an experience I will never forget.