India, Morocco, Myanmar
The elder women of the Lay Tu tribes who live off of the Lemro River in Myanmar are known for their facial tattoos. This 75 year-old woman, Daw Ma Nu was quite receptive and warm towards me. She shared her story of having her face tattooed at age 10. At that time, it was a requirement in her village for young girls as a protection from sexual advances from the King. She remembers crying for several days prior to this ritual and not being permitted to eat. It was helpful to have her mother and other people there to comfort her as well as her Christian faith. This ritual stopped following WW2. Daw Ma Nu told me that initially she felt ugly and scarred but in recent years has seen that her misfortune could bring donations from tourists to her village. With these donations, schools have been built. She feels that her life is making a difference now for others.
The Shwedagon Pagoda holds hundreds of colorful temples, stupas, and statues that reflect over 2500 years of architecture. It is located in the capital of Yangon and considered the most sacred and impressive Buddhist site for the people of Myanmar (formerly Burma).
It enshrines strands of the Buddha’s hair and other holy relics. This site is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of its stupa holds many jewels, one of which is a 72 carat diamond. Being there felt like a living dream, with audible sounds of birds singing; bells gonging; monks meditating and chanting; and people engaged in a variety of both contemplative and social activities. These 4 nuns with shaved heads were quite reverent and focused on their task of sweeping its marble floor. I was witnessing a meditation in motion that resembled a devotional dance.
I took this photograph on an early foggy morning next to the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. Many pilgrims travel to the Ganges to prepare for death. They believe that bathing in the sacred river of the Ganges may prepare the way for a peaceful death and break the cycle of reincarnation. I saw this man sitting alone under a bamboo post in the configuration of a cross next to the river. He appeared quite calm and still. I sat next to him with my camera in full view for several minutes before photographing him, so as to not disturb him. I wanted him to feel my stillness as well and my respect for his solitude. When I picked up my camera to take this photograph, he barely blinked an eye, and appeared to look right through me.
His presence felt like an embodiment of peace.
It was quite a challenge to take many up-close photographs of the Moroccan people. This man, who claimed to be 58 years old, had a captivating face. I asked my guide to tell him that I thought his face was beautiful with many life experiences etched into it. This was my last day in Morocco, and I hoped to take his face back home with me. I saw Moroccan landscape, history, and humanity held here.
Luckily, he consented and truly allowed me to see him.
If you are interested in purchasing any of these photographs as a limited edition fine art print, please submit a query through my contact form.
Karen Redding, Ph.D.
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