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Withstanding the Pain

Initiating young males in to manhood has taken and still takes various forms all over the world. The boys of the Kayin and Bama communities experienced their initiation in to manhood by having their thighs, backs and buttocks tattooed with a blue-ish ink that graced their skin with an intricate repetitive pattern including images of cats, giants, eggplant flowers and peacocks.

These designs were unique to their tribal groups. Opium and beetle nut were chewed as this painstaking ritual took many lengthy sessions to cover the lower body. These tattoos gave the men a spiritual strength and courage along with symbolizing bravery and masculinity.

Many believed that they would not attract a bride if they were not sporting leg tattoo’s as it would show the man was not from a reputable family.

Jens travelled in to the deep mountainous areas of Myanmar and to distant and remote villages to find this cultural tradition and document it with interviews and photographs. Fast forward to early 2000 and fortunately those who were tattooed prior to the 1950s were pleased to show off this beautiful ancient tradition.


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