Fading Bloodlines Expedition to Myanmar

Last year I became involved in a project that fascinated me from the moment I heard about it.

I was told there was an ancient form of art performed in the country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) for centuries that was about to go extinct. The artistic medium? The tattoed faces of the women in Myanmar’s Chin State.

As a background:

“Once considered a sign of great beauty, the women of the Chin tribes of Myanmar had their faces tattooed upon coming of age. This was practiced for an unknown number of centuries. These markings represented gender, age, spiritual beliefs, race and identity.

The arrival of colonial rule and Christian missionaries to Burma in the 19th century instrumented a decline of this female cultural tradition in villages and towns…as the Burmese Revolutionary Council placed a ban on the tattoos. 

Today, after a lifetime of wars and dictatorship, an unknown number of these tattooed women, now in their 60s, 70s, 80s and older, live in the remote areas of the northern Chin and Rakhine states.

Few westerners except a small handful of academics, photographers, missionaries and intrepid explorers have gone beyond these tourist villages to meet the tattooed women living in more remote areas.”

Fading Bloodlines was established as modern day cultural research project, to document and share the stories of these extraordinary women, before any real-life evidence of this cultural practice becomes entirely extinct.

The Fading Bloodlines expedition team has already made several trips deep into remote regions of Chin and Rakhine states of Myanmar, areas where no post-colonial government surveys or mapping has taken place. These time-locked states house small populations of these tattooed women whose lives were once threatened to the point that this cultural tradition of facial tattooing is literally a couple decades from extinction.

In a few weeks time, I will be joining the next expedition into the remote Chin region in search of these women. Our all-female team will be trekking at great lengths to reach them, and once we do, we will (with their permission, of course), speak to the women and hear their stories. We’ll photograph them, and document their details, as well as compensate them for their time.

If this is something that intrigues you, we could use your support by way of making a donation. Currently, the expedition team is funding the entire research project themselves, which includes the hiring of local guides, interpreters, photographers, and all travel expenses, as well as financial support to the women themselves whom have courageously shared their stories. So, even if you can spare the cost of your morning latte, please donate:

If you want to read more about what trying to get out of this project, our expedition objectives are as follows:

  1. Raise awareness and document this vanishing cultural art and traditional way of life.
  2. Carry out the first-ever census of the remaining living tattooed Chin women in the region as well as villages with families whose previous generation practiced this cultural tradition.
  3. Document the stories of receiving their tattoos, identify links to animalistic beliefs, and record what role the tattoos have played in their individual lives as well as their village and tribes.
  4. Provide the first detailed map of the villages the tattooed women live in and originated from.
  5. Share expedition findings through updates to the broader public through the project website, social media, media updates, The Royal Canadian Geography Society, The Explorers club and other like-minded channels.
  6. Translate and pass on expedition findings for future generations of Burmese women.
  7. Produce a report, post-expedition, outlining census results, oral narratives, maps, photographs, findings and discoveries.
  8. Raise awareness for Myanmar’s vanishing cultures at post-expedition speaking events.
  9. Post-expedition fundraising, speaking and media outreach to share expedition findings, auction off photographs and paintings. Sending all funds back to a women’s organization in Myanmar.

Help us achieve all these objectives by donating to this incredible cultural research project:

Our trek is scheduled for December 2018/January 2019, and we thank you for your support!

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