The Apatani and Chin are indigenous tribes living in India’s Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar’s Chin States, respectively, and share a unique tradition of female facial tattooing and modification.
Both tribes trace the genesis of this practice to a defence against the kidnapping of their women. Apatani girls were forced to undergo facial tattooing and don bamboo nose plugs that stretched the skin out. Chin girls received unique facial tattoos to indicate which of the six sub-tribes they were part of. Although the tradition remains, its original connotations with ugliness have disappeared over the generations, instead becoming a representation of courage, beauty and strength.
Brent Lewin is a Canadian photographer living in Sydney. Before moving to Australia, he lived in Bangkok for over a decade, documenting the vanishing culture of the human-elephant relationship in Southeast Asia and other stories relating to the loss of cultural identity.
Lewin’s work has been featured in publications including National Geographic, The New York Times, Discovery Channel Magazine and Readers Digest and has been recognised in several awards.
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