Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Mosuo (or Dabu) | Karolin Klüppel

Photo © Karolin Klüppel | All Rights Reserved
The definition of ethno-photography is that it consists of images of different people and aspects of their lifestyle in order to document their culture. This photography genre is widely used by ethnographers to aid them in their observation and study of the traditions, customs, daily life, ceremonies, and people of a particular culture.

And Karolin Klüppel's 'The Dabuis a classic example of ethnophotography.

The Mosuo, also known as the Dabu, are a Chinese ethnic minority of around 40,000 people that enjoyed hundreds of years of relative stability in a complex matriarchal structure that values female power and decision-making. 
Centered around Lugu Lake; high up in the Himalayas between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, the area is somewhat insular and is naturally protected from outside influences.  

The area is known for the Mosuo, the ‘Kingdom of Women’. The most striking tradition among the Mosuo traditions is the practice of the “walking marriage”, where the women may choose and change partners as they wish. Since Mosuo children stay with their mothers’ families for life, men only visit their female partners by entering their houses at nighttime.

The Mosuo are often characterized as a matriarchal society, as the household heads are always women, who are responsible for all financial decisions and for passing of the family name and property. The matriarch (Ah mi, or elder female, in Chinese) is the head of the house. The Ah mi has absolute power. Mosuo women do all the housework, including cleaning, tending the fire, cooking, gathering firewood, feeding the livestock, and spinning and weaving.

Since the Cultural Revolution, Mosuo couples have been forced to marry, so their traditional way of life and stability have been been slowly changing. Chinese communists tried to dismantle much of the Mosuo’s traditions, burning monasteries and prayer books and outlawing their traditional walking marriages.

Karolin Klüppel is a photographer based in Berlin. Her images have been exhibited in museums, galleries and at festivals. Since she received her MFA in 2012, she has exclusively worked on personal projects that deal with the last matriarchal and matrilineal societies of our time. Her most recent project “Mädchenland“ has won several awards , such as the Canon Profifoto Award 2014 and the Felix Schoeller Award 2015, and has been published in international magazines such as The National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, The Independent, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, among others. Her work was recently shown in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Cultural History Museum Osnabrück, the Delhi Photo Festival and the Chennai Photo Biennale.