Daw Aye quietly lives a village life with her people
Daw Aye's (74) daily routine living and farming in the mountains in Shan State has seen few major changes during her lifetime. When it comes to working in the fields, 50 years ago, her family's main crop was opium. Then, after the government cracked down on the cultivation of opium 35 years ago, her family transitioned into tea and garlic.
The family home in the remote village of Yasaki has only had access to electricity since 2013, when the family purchased a small solar panel and battery. It powers two LED light bulbs and has a plug to charge their cell phone the family received as a gift. While having access to a cell phone may have seemed like a luxury in the village, they still need to walk 30 minutes to find a signal.
Daw Aye is part of the Palong ethnic tribe who live in the region and make up her village. The Palong are best known for both their tea and their mythical belief of how their people came to be. In the Palong creation story, the mother is a dragon and the father is the sun. The dragon lays an egg on the land, and when the sun shines his light on it, it hatches and the Palong people are born.
The headdress Daw Aye wears is special to her and unique to the Palong. It was given to her to signify that she was married and no longer a virgin. At 4 meters long, the wool fabric wraps around her head several times, holding and covering her long black hair. At the ends are beads and colorful additions that signify the dragon in Palong mythology. It's her most prized possession, and although it has seen better days, at $45, it has proven too expensive to replace.
Daw Aye’s children are now grown up and have families of their own, However, with the headdress proudly worn, and among grandchildren running riot all around, she still embodies the mother in her people’s story.