Pwa K’Nyaw, Seeds of Resilience is a long-term project documenting the struggle for survival of the Karen indigenous people amid Myanmar's longest war. With a population of four million, the Karen, traditionally self-identified as Pwa K'Nyaw, represent the third largest ethnic group in Myanmar. 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 continuous armed conflict and 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 culture and way of life in harmony with the natural world. But over many generations, they have struggled for self-determination against Myanmar military campaigns, which have gradually seized their indigenous territory and assimilated populations into the predominant Burmese society. Today, the escalation of warfare following a military coup d'état in 2021, critically endangers this vital socio-ecological landscape. Grounded in the understanding that focusing on the values of Karen communities enables us to grasp the dimensions of the threats and highlight what is at stake, the project delves into their intimate connection with their homeland and the traditional knowledge, rituals, and practices that shape this relationship. By documenting local ontologies coexisting with an increasing military encroachment, I hope to demonstrate how perpetual violence, forced displacement, and land commodification disrupt the human-nature interactions that underpin Karen peoples' existence – from their identity and livelihoods to their health and conservation efforts. Beyond exposing the physical harm inflicted upon communities, the photographs also reflect their deeply rooted resilience as they endure cultural and environmental ravages, which are often unreported in mainstream media narratives of the Myanmar crisis.
Pwa K'Nyaw, Seeds of Resilience
2019 - current