30 March 2013

Winking at Bangkok's Temple Dancers

Temples and shrines in Thailand often feature performances by Thai dance troupes, who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered. Bangkok's famous Erawan Shrine is a Hindu shrine that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation Lord Brahma. More than 90 % of Thailand's population are Buddhist, but they mix aspects of Hindu and animist beliefs into their spiritual perception and appear comfortable with Hinduism's pantheon of gods blending with Buddha's teaching that god does not exist… 

Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, sequin-encrusted headdress
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, sequin-encrusted headdress
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, sequin-encrusted headdress
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, sequin-encrusted headdress
Dancing bare-foot in a temple seems like an idyllic job, but for Bangkok's shimmering temple dancers at the Erawan Shrine it's a demanding career accompanied by incense-choked lungs, consequent dieting and rare toilet breaks before the music stops on their 40th birthday.

Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Erawan shrine, Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, Thai temple dancer, temple dance, ram Thai

“The greater the ambiguity, the greater the pleasure.”


Bangkok's temples are a unique part of the capital's heart and soul; the lesser known Wat Sri Bunruang is one of the c. 500 wats in Bangkok. Strictly speaking a wat is a Buddhist sacred precinct which consists of the vihara (the quarters for monks aka bhikkhus), the actual temple, an edifice housing a large image of Buddha, and a structure for teaching, learning and dancing.

Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Wat Sri Bunruang, dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, traditional headdress, sequin-encrusted headdress
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Wat Sri Bunruang, dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, traditional headdress, sequin-encrusted headdress
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Wat Sri Bunruang, dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, traditional headdress, sequin-encrusted headdress
Facing the World, © Matt Hahnewald, closeup, portrait, headshot, Thailand, Bangkok, Wat Sri Bunruang, dancer, temple dance, ram Thai, traditional costume, traditional headdress, sequin-encrusted headdress




“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer...”

Portrait photographs of Asian genderqueers in Matt Hahnewald's
Flickr Album 2014-05a Hitting On Asia's Genderqueers

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