Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Muhammad Fadli: The Wa People

Photo © Muhammad Fadli-All Rights Reserved

I stumbled on the website of Muhammad Fadli, an Indonesian travel and documentary photographer, whose various galleries include photographs made in Taiwan, China, India, Singapore, and his native country.

I favored his work from Wengding, a Wa minority village in Yunnan which he titled Wa Frontier. Wengding is about 20 miles from Cangyuan county seat. The village is made up of 98 families who've kept primitive Wa residential architectures and ethnic culture. It has been the best-conserved primitive ethnic community and the must-see tourist site in Lincang Municipality.

You'll see images of buffalo skulls in the gallery, and that's because the Was used human skulls in their religious rituals, which included sacrifice to the God of Rice. These have been replaced by buffalo heads which are a symbol of wealth.

As for the woman with blackened teeth in the above photograph; blackened teeth is relatively common amongst ethnic minorities and tribes in Vietnam, China, Laos and Cambodia. Most of us have noticed that some Asian women cover their mouths when talking or laughing. This is a remnant of a superstition that exposing teeth is uncivilized savagery, and that's the reason behind blackened teeth. In Vietnam for example, the original rationale for blackening of teeth at puberty was the assurance that one would not be mistaken for an evil spirit!

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