The Apatani, or Tanw, also known as Apa and Apa Tani, are an interesting tribal group of c. 60,000 people living in the Ziro Valley in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. Their language belongs to the Sino-Tibetian family (Tani languages).
The Apatani, one of the major ethnic groups of the Eastern Himalayas, are a distinct culture with systematic land-use practices and rich traditional ecological knowledge of natural-resources management and conservation, acquired over the centuries through informal experimentation. The tribe is known for its animistic sun-and-moon religion (Donyi-Polo), intricate handloom designs, skills in cane and bamboo crafts, vibrant traditional village councils called bulyañ, and facial tattoos (broad blue lines from the forehead to the tip of the nose and five vertical stripes under the lower lip on the chin) and black wooden nose plugs aka yaping hullo, lodged in the sides of their noses, of their elderly women. The tattooing procedure involved using thorns to cut the skin and soot mixed in animal fat to fill in the deep blue color. The wounds were then allowed to get infected so that the tattoos became larger, darker and clearer. That practice reportedly started because the women wanted to look unattractive to males from neighboring tribes. It’s a dying tradition, which has not been practiced since c. 1970 CE. Now it is only the elderly women of the tribe who bear the physical hallmarks of a bygone era, providing a hint at the fascinating history of the Apatani tribe...
"This world is full of the most outrageous nonsense.
Sometimes things happen which you would hardly think possible."
"In black and white there are more colors than color photography,
because you are not blocked by any colors
so you can use your experiences, your knowledge, and your fantasy,
to put colors into black and white."
I usually do my photo tours solo. However, this time I was lucky to team up and play ball with Japanese photographer Rie Shiina who tremendously helped me to establish close rapport with the traditional Apatani women. Paya aro pacho, Rie!
More portrait photographs with exif data, geotags and other specs in Matt Hahnewald's