Currently showing at Maison de la Culture in Vientiane, Laos.
In early 2016, Tessa Bunney and I decided to work on a joint project and in March simultaneously travelled to Myanmar and Thailand to photograph the Buddhist ordination ceremonies to see the similarities and differences across borders. The result of our travels is Novice – Photographs of Poy Sang Long and Shinbyu Buddhist ordination ceremonies in rural Thailand and Myanmar.
Each year in March or April in Mae Hong Son province, the Shan people hold the colourful parades and ceremonies as part of Poy Sang Long. The events are held to ordain young boys into the monkhood and begins at a local temple with the ritual head shaving. For the following three days they are adorned with beautiful make-up, dressed in brightly coloured clothes, kept off the ground, and paraded through the town on the shoulders of relatives as sang long or precious gems.
The roots of the Shan, or Tai Yai as they are also known, are in Yunnan, China, from where they migrated into Myanmar. About 30,000 Shan live in Thailand, mainly in Mae Hong Son province which borders Myanmar and the Shan State. The fact that the area remained relatively isolated for many years has undoubtedly served to protect the Shan culture and give the area a unique ethnic flavour. The Shan are predominately Buddhist and their temples can be distinguished by the elaborately tiered roofs. Shan women also have a liking for tankha, a yellow face powder made from the bark of a tree, which is also used to beautify the young novices.
Our exhibition is on until June 18th at the Maison de la Culture.
The great Lao food at our opening night was prepared by Doi Ka Noi restaurant which is just five minutes’ walk from the exhibition. Tessa and I also have a few images on show there from our last exhibition.