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A Dying Art

June 2021. Military Coup in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (NLD) is arrested and detained. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and hundreds have been killed.

Myanmar is constantly in the headlines along with the Covid pandemic however it is not gaining the same traction or international attention and support it deserves and so I felt the need to write this piece about a talented photographer and friend, Jens Uwe Parkitny with whom I correspond regularly.

Jens has been travelling to Myanmar since 1999 and is married to Swe Yi Myat

and has two daughters. The family currently live in Myanmar. I met Jens in 2017 whilst travelling around the country and was fortunate to stay in the hotel he designed and built with his wife in Loikaw by the lake.

I will never forget walking to our room and being astonished at the most beautiful photographs that lined the hallway. I had never seen anything like them. Images of womens faces exuding a natural beauty and I’m certainly not talking about facial filler, botox, fake lashes or permanently darkened eyebrows but entire faces covered with an ancient tattoo art. Their young and ageing skin adorning series of dots, lines, circles and fully bathed in ink. Templates of patterns which perfectly fitted and complimented their faces.

I later learned that over a dozen groups from the Chin state passed on this tradition to girls and women and that these individual patterns identified the ethnic community to which they belonged.

Jen’s photographs had a common thread. They captured an obvious trust between photographer and his subject and as a result these women proudly seem to confidently exude their history, their tradition, their identity and perhaps more importantly their sense of belonging.

Having spent 14 years taking these images Jens had the remarkable privilege of being the only photographer to have documented this dying art.

His photographic portfolio tells the untold story about the women of the Southern Chin that lived and still live today in remote parts of western Myanmar.

Jens’s photographic work has been shown at international photo festivals and exhibited in museums in New Zealand, Switzerland and Germany as well as in galleries and cultural institutions in France, Hong Kong and Myanmar.

A complete series of b/w and colour photographs are available to purchase in varying sizes and can be customised. If you are interested, please get in touch with Daniela at Scala and Romano.


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