August 2009: The Bavarian State Museum in Munich, Germany, confirmed "Bloodfaces" Exhibition for June 2010

Bloodfaces – Facial Tattoos of Chin Women in Myanmar (Burma)

For June 2010, the Bavarian State Museum of Ethnology in Munich is preparing a special exhibition about traditional facial tattoos of Chin women in Myanmar, featuring portraits of photographer Jens Uwe Parkitny who conducted field work on the topic in the years 2001 to 2007.

The Chin tribes live in difficult to access territory in the North and North-West of Myanmar. Their cultural signature includes the practice of some groups to tattoo the faces of their young girls and women, a ritual always conducted by women. The complex patterns, hammered into the skin with thorns or needles using a mixture of soot and sap for color, have their origin in a centuries old tradition. It is very likely that the abstract designs are inspired by the plant and animal kingdom.

The comprehensive photographic documentation of the different tattoos by Jens Uwe Parkitny is the first of its kind worldwide and therefore unique. His work is invaluable as the facial tattooing practice among the Chin groups is a fast vanishing tradition.

Today’s generation shows little interest in this tradition and is rather dismissive. It is therefore predominately the older Chin women bearing the impressive designs and ornaments on their corrugated faces.

For the first time, various portraits of Chin women with facial tattoos, some of them never documented before, will be displayed within the scope of a larger exhibition. The State Museum of Ethnology will complement this particular aspect of Chin culture with showing traditional hand-woven tribal textiles from the collection of former director Lucian Scherman and his wife, Christine, who went on an extensive Expedition and collection journey in British occupied Burma in 1911.

Further details of this exhibition will be made available soon

Dr. Wolfgang Stein,
Senior Curator