Mountainland: Vietnamese Photographs - North Northwest
„Mountainland“ surveys the lives and societies of upland Southeast Asia.
The Southeast Asian Massif is a region that sprawls across Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, China, India and Bangladesh, roughly 2,5 million sqare kilometers. Most of the people dwelling there are fragmented into hundreds of ethnic identities, linguistically and culturally distinct from the populations that dominate the state cores in the valleys.
Estimations put the ethnic minority populations at around eighty million to one hundred million people.
The population of the hills is far more dispersed and culturally diverse than that of the valleys and their history is best understood as a history of runaways from nationbuilding processes in the lowlands.
Historically all states, classical, colonial and independent nation-states, in the region have tried to bring such people under their administration and encouraged politics of economic, administrative, and cultral absorption into the majority population at the state core. Thereby making the upland both a space of political resistance and a zone of cultural refuge.
The region is knittered together not by political unity, but by comparable patterns of hill agriculture, dispersal, mobility, and rough egalitarianism. Rugged mountains and beautiful, but harsh landscapes are shaping the environment for the people balancing between traditional livelihood and modern structures and providing a homeland for these groups, dwelling here since centuries.
Naturally, today, in our fast growing, globalized world, the option of avoiding the state is one that is fast vanishing.
Nevertheless, „Mountainland“ tries to challenge the widespread perception and common narrative of the cultural unity of the Southeast Asian states and highlights the classical lifestyle of the mountain dwellers vis-à-vis the respective lowland societies.
Mountainland:: Vietnamese Photographs - North Northwest is the first part of this ongoing project.