Michi Modii, 60
When the last tattooed Apatani woman of Arunachal Pradesh passes, the tribe will lay to rest one of the most significant parts of their history and culture–the coming-of-age ritual of nose plugging and facial tattooing, two practices that historically defined what it meant to be an Apatani woman.
However, according to the locals of Ziro Valley, the government in the 1970’s banned these practices. Some of the Apatani women expressed their gratitude that the rituals have been banned; they do not want to see younger generations go through the physical pain of plugging one’s nose and tattooing one’s face.
The ban represents both the movement towards modernization as well as movement away from what has always been. For as long as history has been passed from generation to generation, to have the plugs and tattoos is to be Apatani. Now, going forward, these women must decide what marks them as being distinct from the surrounding tribes and, really, the rest of the world.
Michi Modii, To Be An Apatani Woman, Ziro, India. November, 2017.
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