Extreme Cultures made for Women in South-East Asia

Myanmar has a great ethnic diversity. In the state of Chin there are several of these tribes, many of them with tattooed faces.

They say that centuries ago were common abductions of young women in this state – chin State – by the extreme beauty of women. To try to prevent their daughters from being kidnapped, they painted their faces with charcoal and later with more durable solutions such as tattoos.

Soon this tradition was established and the tattooed face was no longer only used as a prevention of kidnappings, but also became a sensual claim for men and a demonstration of the courage necessary to obtain marriage.

This custom has been lost after its prohibition in the 60s, although there are still old women with tattooed faces, being the last women to keep this painful tradition alive.

Bandaged feet or lotus feet

In China there was a most cruel tradition. The girls’ feet were bandaged when they were only 4 years old, preventing the foot from growing – it was achieved by breaking the fingers and the arch, resulting in a kind of closed fist – and thus being able to show off the beauty of a tiny foot.

It was also a test of tolerance against pain, an important demonstration to a potential husband. It is estimated that this barbarism was carried out in 50% of Chinese middle-class families and almost 100% of well-to-do families. It was formally abolished in the 20th century.

Amputated fingers

If there is an event that is experienced in multiple and different ways depending on the culture, that is death. The Dani people of West Papua have a way more explicit than just crying to show their grief over the loss of a loved one.

Strings made of hemp are tied in the middle of the finger until the upper part stops feeling; and the skin and bone are broken. The priest is in charge of mutilating as many fingers of the family member as he sees fit.

The intention of this harrowing act is to physically represent the pain they feel for the death of the family member. Although its practice is no longer permitted, it is common to still observe crippled members of the tribe.

Within the funerary tradition, we must also highlight the mummification of the dead, preserving them thanks to smoke and animal oil.

One could go on to enumerate countless different traditions that can be found around the world, many of them surprising and rejectionable. But we encourage you to do a critical exercise about ours and to put yourself in the shoes of someone who sees or hears them for the first time.