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Pwa K’Nyaw: Seeds of Resilience is a long-term project documenting the ongoing struggle for self-determination among the Karen indigenous people in Myanmar—a struggle that, despite being one of the world's most prolonged civil strife, remains largely unknown to the global public. With a population of four million, the Karen, traditionally self-identified as Pwa K'Nyaw, represent the third largest ethnic group in the country. However, about 250,000 remain in Kawthoolei, an autonomous state that local communities view as their ancestral homeland, and has endured more than seven decades of internal colonization. The heart of Kawthoolei lies in Southeastern Myanmar, where the forested hills and winding valleys of the Salween River basin descend to the Thailand border. For millennia, Karen people have inhabited this region of extraordinary biodiversity, developing their ways of life in harmony with the natural world. But over many generations, they have also resisted continuous campaigns of repression and occupation of their territory by Burmese military governments while striving to safeguard their environments, traditional practices, and identities. Today, the escalation of warfare following a military coup d'état in 2021, critically endangers this vital socio-ecological landscape. Over 100,000 internally displaced persons have been sheltering in the region's lush forests after fleeing their homes due to relentless waves of airstrikes. When land is the basis of life, conflict and forced displacement strip people of their humanity. It disrupts the profound relationship of Karen communities to their ancestral territory, which sustains their culture and livelihoods and serves as a source of resilience in the face of adversity.

Pwa K'Nyaw: Seeds of Resilience

2019 - 2023

“We ask the spirits to protect our country and indigenous culture,” says Saw Shan Nay Moo. “We pray for the heart of the Myanmar military to change.”

"The mother advised us to save the seed of the taro, 
The father advised us to save the seed of the yam.
If we save up to thirty kinds of seeds,
our lives will be sustained in times of crisis." 

- Traditional Karen poem

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