Ca. 1900s. Forty-one loose gelatin silver prints, from ca. 10x15 cm (4x6 in) to ca. 7x9 cm (2 ¾ x 3 ½ in). All but one photo with period pencil and/or ink notes on rectos and/or versos. Twenty-two photos with ink-or pencil written addresses of “Marion Sutherland, 295-14 St., Portland, Oregon” on verso, one photo with the additional note “Return to” above the address. Several photos with minor creases, a couple with the small losses of corners, a couple of images mildly faded, but overall a very good collection of historically interesting strong images.
A historically important collection of early original photos of the Chin people from around Hakha in the Chin Hills of western Myanmar taken by American Baptist missionaries in the early 1900s. The collection is closely related to the activities of the American doctor and Baptist missionary Erik Hjalmar East, who worked at the station in Hakha in 1902-1910. He went to Burma on the appointment of the Northern Baptist Missionary Union, in 1903-1908 he was accompanied by his wife Emily Johanson Johnson (1877-1943). The East couple learned the Hakha Chin language, and Emily translated the New Testament into it. East performed the first baptisms of the Chin people and created the first Baptist church among them; he built the first hospital and a missionary house in Hakha. East had a strong Portland connection, where he moved in 1889 and became a Baptist Christian, attending what is now Temple Baptist Church. After their return from Burma, the East family settled in Portland and reunited with the Temple Baptist Church. This fact can explain the presence of a handwritten Portland address of one “Marion Sutherland” on over twenty photos from the collection – most likely, an acquaintance of Dr. East or a member of the Portland Baptist community. One “Miss Margaret Sutherland” was listed as a member of the Woman’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, posted in Bhamo, Burma, in 1899 (possibly, the same person, see: The Helping Hand/ Woman’s Baptist Missionary Societies. – August 1899, p. 10).
See more about Dr. East and his activities in the Chin Hills: Rev. Robert G. Johnson. The Church in the Chin Hills// Burma Baptist Chronicle/ Maung Shwe Wa. G. & E. Sowards. Rangoon: Burma Baptist Convention, 1963. Pp. 383-397.
The extensively captioned collection includes eleven interesting photos of the Baptist mission station, missionaries and converts in Hakha. Among them are portraits of “Dr. & Mrs. East leaving the jungles proper for the Hills to work among the Headhunters. Mrs. East translated the New Testament into the language of the natives;” “Dr. E.H. East, Mrs. East & help with the converts taken at Haka, Chin Hills;” “Haka men & boys after years of mission work;” “Chin Hills converts;” “two faithful Christians” and their families, and “daughter of the woman who was baptized inspite[?] of the severe treatment she received from her husband. This girl & her mother were baptized at Sun Jam [?] village.” Three interesting scenes show “the first Christian marriage. Dr. East officiating and explaining the solemn nature of the rite”; “the first Baptismal service in the Chil Hills, Haka, Burma, Dr. East officiating (Easter week);” and “Baptismal scene. Dr. East officiating. Easter season.” There is also a view of the “schoolhouse & hospital with belfry between them.”
The collection also has some rare ethnographical scenes and portraits of Chin people mostly of the Hakha tribe, showing chiefs and their families, schoolboys, a “girl weaving her clothes,” “a Chin girl in clothes she weaved and sewed,” “a great chief having 50 wives. He is wearing a red coat a British army officer gave him. He is seated next to the port with a cross on his turban-like head-dress.” Other interesting photos show “a durbar at Falam,” Manipura River, “entrance to a Haka village,” “rice floating above the Irrawaddy River on a bamboo raft,” the Chin Hills, riverboats showing the “mode of travelling along the streams,” “Chin chief’s front yard,” “Rangoon – where our missionaries land,” and others.
There are also two photos of what is apparently a Khuang-Tsawi festival showing “Chief Lin Moe and mithuns [or gayals, Myanmar domestic bovine] ready to be sacrificed during a quang stvi. Biggest feast among Hakas.” Very interesting is the photo of a “death dance. Skulls are crammed with food – pork, corn, millet, sweet potatoes & rice. This is the funeral of a chief’s wife. She had been dead, dried & kept in an earthen jar for a year. Her head was cut off at the time of death & brought out at her funeral – placed on a sort of platform and surrounded by the skulls of her forefathers.”
Two other photos show a “collection of war implements & personal possessions which are buried with the deceased. Belonging to one of the headhunters of the Chin Hill, Upper Burma;” and “this collection of animal skulls are not coveted “trophies of the hunt.” They represent some of the Gods worshipped by the headhunter of the Chin Hills, India. The sheaf of bamboo canes to the right, standing upright, were rests for the nats (evil spirits) who had to be [..?] in this way. Dr. East helped a native missionary clear these out of the hut of a converted chief”
A photo of a Buddhist priest “holding service with his adherents in Burma” is supplemented with a note “Buddhist missionaries are very zealous in spreading their religion which is a sort of deified atheism. However, in the Chin Hills, it is not readily accepted as the natives are animists & cling ferociously to their animal worship.” A photo of a map of Burma marks the stations of American Baptist Foreign Mission Society and Woman’s American Baptist Foreign Mission Society in the country.
The collection is supplemented with a portrait of Ann Haseltine Russell (1838-1930), a daughter of an Oregon pioneer Isaac Hill (1805-1864), who donated his land for what became known as the Hill Cemetery (on modern-day Hwy 66 near Ashland, OR). Mrs. Russel is shown “standing at the 7 ft. slab marble containing 500 letters carved thereon by herself, in a cemetery given by her father, Isaac Hill, to all those who fell in the Indian Wars.”
Overall a rare collection of excellent early photos of the Chin people of Myanmar showing their traditional culture and the activities of American Baptist missionaries in the early 20th century.
Price: $2,250.00 USD