Bex's travel through Myanmar continues...
Imagine being born into a family where, from the age of five, your shins and your neck are coiled with thick brass rings, both day and night. If any of us were to follow this practice in today’s modern society (without actually taking it off ) people would not only find it an outlandish curiousity but also a hindrance to daily life. However, for members of the Padaung people of Eastern Burma, it is a traditional expression of beautification and they would think it odd and a total anomaly to see women who are not adorned with such precious jewellery. As she would share with Bex later, these were Mu-Mae’s exact thoughts when Bex walked into her home as a single woman with only a few chains around her neck and bare legs.
The Paduang are an ethnic group related to the Karen and Karenni, indigenous only to the Kayah State of Burma. They cultivate rice in the mountains just south of the town of Loikaw. In their most distinctive custom, beginning at about 5 years of age, many Paduang girls have their necks wound with spirals of brass. They say that this practice originated to protect women from tigers, which often attack a victim by biting the neck. The custom has been maintained as symbol of wealth and status, which in turn enhances marriageability, and as an assertion of woman's identity and beauty.
Bex spent 4 hrs talking to Mu-Mae with a translator in her village. Mu-Me showed Bex this photo of her (above) which was taken when she was 25 with her soon to be husband. It was the first time she had ever seen a photo of herself, it was hanging above the entrance to her house. Mu-Mae now lives alone looking after her grandchildren in her village as the rest of her tribe went to Thailand to seek for work but were refused papers so they now live in a Padaung refuge used as tourist attractions stuck between 2 borders.
The Long Neck tribe are probably the most photographed by visitors both in Myanmar & Northern Thailand. Understanding the facts may make you think twice. Donating to the village directly will help them return to their village to continue their rural village lives and support their families.
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