Thursday, June 4, 2015

Karolin Klüppel: Mädchenland

Karolin Klüppel, a German photographer, went to Mawlynnong in far eastern India to document the girls of the matrilineal Khasi people. Among the Khasi it is the youngest girl who inherits the family property, and children take their mother's names.

Klüppel found, I guess, what she was looking for. She wrote:
In the Khasi culture, women and girls have a special standing in the society and, of course, this exceptional role ‘produces’ a great self-confidence. I did not want to do a classical documentary on their culture, but tried to capture this outstanding role somehow. I decided to make a portrait series of the girls because I was so impressed by their self-assured appearance and thought this must be how matriliny becomes visible.

I will offer no opinion as to how true that is, but anyway the Khasi are a fascinating people and their part of India is gorgeous, famous for its living bridges and other jungle wonders. The girls in Klüppel's portraits do radiate confidence. I have read that in recent years the matriarchy of the Khasi has been reinforced by the economic patterns of rural India, in which many men leave home to find work and women increasingly dominate the home even in traditionally patriarchal places. Among the Khasi the traditionally weak ties of men to the house have encouraged even more such departures. So in a sense this is a Kingdom of Girls, as Klüppel titled her photographs -- they will stay, inherit these homes, marry itinerant men and raise children in a world dominated by women.

I was fascinated by this piece of furniture, which looks like it came from an American antique shop. Did that style of punched tin screen originate in India, and spread from there to Britain and thence to America?

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