The Ng’hang People, Chin State, Myanmar

The Ng’hang people live on the banks of the north-west Laymyo River. To their south, the Lai Tu people can be found. Further upstream, the Vet, Uppu, and Hiatuii live in villages dotting the river. The Ng’hang are the most populous people in this area and their influences can be seen in many other villages.

The Ng’hang tattoo, as with all Chin groups in recent times, was done as a coming of age for young girls. For many, it was a competition to see who in their friend circle could get the tattoo first. Girls looked up to those with a perfect tattoo and lots of necklaces and bangles.

Tattoos were mostly completed in December, the coldest time of year. It was thought that the cool weather helped with healing and there was less chance of infection at this time of year. The exact date and sacrifices to be made for a successful tattoo would be decided by a shaman in the village. This advice should be observed as the consequences of a failed tattoo were permanent skin damage and sometimes even death. The shaman’s words were treated with great importance by the Ng’hang people.

The pattern itself was drawn onto the skin using strips of bamboo before the process of the tattoo began. Then, the ink and thorns the girl had prepared were used by the artist to poke the pattern into her skin over a period of one or two days. This was done in a small makeshift hut in the woods outside the village. Once it was complete, the girls were ready for marriage and gained the admiration of their juniors along with the attention of the village boys.

Ng'hang Woman with Facial Tattoo

Ng'hang Couple

Temporary Hut - Laymyo River

Ng'hang Woman with Facial Tattoo

Ng'hang Woman with Facial Tattoo

Ng'hang Women's Belt

Farming Hut - Laymyo River