When we were in Chiang Mai, Tricia and I arranged ourselves a trip to a Karen hill tribe village some distance outside the city. The Karen people are mainly situated in Burma, but some are settled over the border in Northern Thailand. It is believed that their ancestors originated from Tibet. The village was found up a narrow track and was built on the side of a steep hill.
It is traditional for the Karen women to wear spirals around their necks that give the appearance of giraffe-like proportions. The origins of the tradition are uncertain. We were told by our guide that young girls from around the age of five wear a small(ish!) spiral, which is changed at puberty for a larger and longer spiral, with the final change coming when they reach adulthood. We were also told that they are even buried wearing their spiral and that the only time that they take it off is on their wedding night. The spirals are heavy and one version of the tale tells that the weight slowly crushes the collar bones to give the appearance of the long neck, while the second and possibly more accurate version asserts that the weight causes the rib cage to 'sag', pulling down the shoulders and giving the long neck appearance.
The image above is of a young Karen girl aged about ten years old. She was a beautiful child but unfortunately she did not embellish that beauty with a smile. I did not ask her to pose, I simply captured the image as she stood leaning against a table. The village was full of traditional handicrafts for sale and when we purchased some items from the young girl, we got a most gorgeous smile, but this was so fleeting that it was not possible to capture it.
I am very busy at the moment following up a review meeting with social services and health authorities regarding the immediate and longer term care provision for Tricia's mum, who has Alzheimer's. I will endeavour to catch up on portfolios and recent uploads over the coming days, but if I simply click rather than comment, I hope you will understand.
Portraits and people