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The tattoo fades, the headhunting custom of the Indian tribe gradually fades away


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With wit and pride, the elderly figures in photographer Peter Bos' portrait seem gentle and kind. But the tattoos on their faces hide a dark truth: These characters were once fearsome headhunters, specializing in beheading enemies as souvenirs. They are one of 230,000 members of the Konyak tribe in the state of Nagaland, India. This community makes a living by farming in hilltop villages near the Myanmar border. They have the custom of tattooing to commemorate important events in their life.

The tattoo fades
the headhunting custom of the Indian tribe gradually fades away
Face tattoos were the prerogative of warriors who returned from christmas wars for territory or power. "I don't feel scared or threatened, they are very warm people. We often think headhunting is barbaric and cruel, but for them it's just a custom," photographer Bos said. Reply to CNN. "We go to their homes, take time to listen to stories of the past, about poems, music of a glorious time. We do this to help them be natural in front of the camera," said Mr. Bos. speak. "But the old warriors seem weak, their eyes full of sadness."

In the second half of the 19th century
Christianity spread to the region, headhunting and face tattooing gradually disappeared and was almost completely abolished in the 1970s. As the last generations of warriors came to an end. After the death of the Konyak tribe, this custom will become a legend that only exists in history books. "Each tattoo symbolizes the status or life of the warrior, no two motifs are exactly the same," said Phejin Konyak, great-grandson of a headhunter.

Ms. Konyak has spent years collecting all the tattoo motifs, lyrics and st patrick's day outfit songs of the Konyak tribe to preserve a dying custom. Leaving the tribe at the age of four, she moved with her family to the city of Dimapur, 300 kilometers from her hometown. "Of course, the introduction of Christianity allowed us to study. But in Nagaland, the transition from traditional customs to modernity happened so quickly. We went from headhunting to job hunting. iPad use has only been going on for a few decades," she said.