Kingdom of Girls

Karolin Klüppel

2013 - 2015

Meghalaya, India

In the state of Meghalaya in India, the indigenous people of the Khasi with 1,1 million members form the majority of the population. The Khasi are a matrilineal society. Here, traditionally it is the girls who are of particularly importance and who play an exposed role in the family. The line of succession passes through the youngest daughter. If she marries, her husband is taken into her family‘s house, and the children take their mother‘s name. A family with just sons is considered unlucky, because only daughters can assure the continuity of a clan. The succession after maternal line guarantees girls and women in Meghalaya a unique economic and social independence compared to general indian conditions. To disrespect a woman in the khasi culture means to harm the society.

Between 2013 and 2015 I spent ten months in the khasivillage of Mawlynnong in north-east India, a village of just 95 dwellings. In this series I concentrate on the girls themselves in contextualizing them in their everyday physical environment through a sensitive balance between documentation and composition.

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  • Wanda at the stairs to the treehouse. The treehouse is a public viewpoint for tourists in Mawlynnong. Because Mawlynnong is considered the cleanest village in Asia, it attracts many indian tourists. Two families built this treehouse and charge 20 rupees for a look. From the top you can see Bangladesh. Every child in Mawlynnong loves the view.

  • Prosperity at the river of Mawlynnong. In the summer time, the children spend here most of their afternoons swimming, catching fish and washing laundry.

  • Anisha with Kwai. Eating Kwai, that means areca nut served with betel leaf and lime, is a big part of Khasi culture. Most Khasi are addicted to it. Is it also a common item you will be served when you visit any Khasi family.

  • Yasmin holds a rooster. She loves to catch and play with it after dawn.

  • Nebadas food cupboard. No family in Mawlynnong owns a fridge, thats why they have to cook every meal fresh, especially in the months of summer when it gets very hot in the village.

  • Phida, 9 years old, is playing with a balloon in her bedroom. She is the oldest of three siblings.

  • Steam. A girl takes a bath at home. During winter season, when the air is fresh, the parents will boil water for their children´s bath. As no house in Mawlynnong has running water at home, the water comes from the many wells in the village. For a bath, they heat up an urn full of water in the fire. Then it steams a lot.

  • Ibapyntngen with beetles: the children love to catch these beautiful green bugs in late summer.

  • Anisha near the window after she took her daily bath.

  • Grace wearing a string of dried fish as a necklace. Before the winter comes and there is no more fish in the lakes, many Khasi dry fish to eat during winter season. They dry the fish on bamboo sticks in the sun.

  • In the winter, the nights can be cold in Mawlynnong. Every family has many blankets to stay warm in those fresh nights. The houses are made of wood, bamboo and sheet and are of course not isolated.

  • Theodora in her sunday dress. All the inhabitants of Mawlynnong are christian and the sundays are spend in church. Most of the inhabitants are very strong beliefers. Every sunday, the villagers wear their best clothes. It is usually the only day of leisure, the working days are from Monday to Saturday.
    (What you can also see here: The walls are turned black over the years, because most houses in Mawlynnong have no chimney.)

  • A young Khasi girl named Best, with hooves. Khasi are not Hindus and eat beef. In Mawlynnong, everyone is Christian. Khasi know how to cook soup out of the legs. Most families do not have the money to buy meat on a regular base. It is always something special.

  • Yasmin taking bath at the river of Mawlynnong. Sometimes the water stops running in the wells for some days. Then all the villagers take their daily bath at the river and the water gets very milky because of the soap.

  • Ibapyntngen playing. In Mawlynnong, Khasi often sleep with mosquito nets because there can be insects in the homes (holes everywhere!).

  • Yasmin with mug. No house in Mawlynnong has running water. Those urns are used to carry the water from the dwells and to keep it fresh.