Young boys of the Shan tribe in northern Thailand undergo a ritual known as “Poi Sang Long.” They dress in bright colors, wear makeup, and adorn themselves with flowers. The purpose of the ceremony is to mimic the young Prince Siddhartha before he became Lord Buddha. To a Westerner, or person unfamiliar with the tribe’s customs, these adolescent males could easily be mistaken for young girls.
Finland-based photographer Kenneth Bamberg — who has focused his body of work on questioning the cultural and societal constructs of gendered norms and identities — points out something compelling. “Even though the purpose of the ritual is to show that the boys are on their way to become mature and responsible men, it is loaded with aesthetic values and free from any physical trials. This is what sets it apart from other typical male rituals… ” Visit Bamberg’s Shan tribe portraits, Flowers, past the break, and visit the artist’s website to enjoy more of his work.