Friday, 2 March 2018

Beyond The Frame | The Black H'mong With Birdcage | 5D Mark II

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
The H'mong, estimated at about 1 million people, constitute one of the largest ethnic group in Vietnam and one of its tribal group, known as the Black Hmong, are reputed for their handicraft and indigo blue clothes made of hemp. The women wear long blouses over short trousers, and wrap long scarves around their legs. They wrap their long hair around their head covered by a turban.

The H'mong came to Vietnam from South China some 300 years ago, during the Ming and Qing dynasties.  The majority live in northern Vietnam's Lao Cai province. Their spoken language belongs to the H’mong–Dao language family, and although their writing was Romanized in 1961, it is not widely used.

The back story on the top photograph: I was walking in a Black H'mong village (I don't recall  its name, but it was at a short drive from Sapa), and chanced upon a woman sweeping her porch. She was used to tourists, and didn't seem perturbed when I asked to take photographs of her. 

At one point, she unhooked a birdcage to clean it and started whistling to get the bird's attention. Naturally, the bird was more alarmed by my clicking camera shutter, and started to furiously chirp at was at that moment* that I captured the woman's incredulous expression at the bird's "lack of manners". 

You'll note the circular discoloration on her forehead. This is the result of medicinal cupping. According to traditional Asian medicine, cupping creates a vacuum on the skin to improve qi (life energy) this case, the woman probably suffered from headaches.

* I will be using this photograph -among others- to illustrate "The Moment" in photography during my forthcoming photo talk on The Passion For Travel Photography in Shanghai.

© Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
At another village, I met a H'mong mother and her young daughter who gladly posed for photographs in front of their home. If they can afford it, H'mong women wear silver jewelry in the form of heavy necklaces and earrings.

The woman seems to be well-off (note the two gold teeth), and is wearing lock shaped pendants on her necklace. These ‘soul lock pendants' are presented during ‘curing ceremonies' to lock the restless soul to the body until the appropriate time to die arrives.

She also bears pinching abrasions on her neck. Pinching the skin is also an ancient Asian treatment to increase blood flow, and by extension to increase life energy.

For more of my photography on the tribes of North West Vietnam, don't miss my Hill Tribes In The Mist gallery of monochrome photographs.

The technical details for the top photograph are: Canon 5D MKII+ 17-40mm. 1/25th sec Hand Held. f6.0. iso400. Pattern Metering. Date: 2012-09-21 at 09:56:39 (Hanoi time). Post Processed Using Color Efex and Iridient Developer 3.

The technical details for the lower photograph are: Canon 5DMKII +17-40mm. 1/400th sec Hand Held. f6.0. iso 400. Pattern Metering. Date: 2012-09-21 at 11:36:39 (Hanoi time). Post Processed Using Color Efex and Iridient Developer 3.