Thursday, 21 February 2013

Back Story | The Dzao Of Sa Pa

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Here's the lastest addition to my Digital Wet Plates series of portraits.

The main square in Sa Pa (or Sapa) in northern Vietnam is the main hub of the town, and it hosts a large number of Red Dzao (pronounced Zao) and Hmong women who sell their handicrafts to local and foreign visitors. This market can remain well into dusk. I recall being engulfed by mist (or a low moving cloud) in the early evening whilst photographing the vendors.

The Dzao are the 9th largest ethnic group in Vietnam with a population of just under half a million. They are believed to have started migrating from China in the 13th century, and wear colorful costumes characterized by black trousers embroidered with flower or small star patterns. Their jackets are either red or black usually with embroidered borders.

The women wear a black or red turban together along with silver jewelry. As can be seen in the above photograph, the Dzao women shave off their eyebrows and foreheads (some shave their whole heads) as this is regarded as a sign of beauty in their culture.

The woman in the above photograph was busy embroidering a piece of fabric she hoped to sell to visitors. Note the threaded needle stuck in her headdress.