Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1843 Kachin dawa
Subjectdawa chief
Setting: tribal warfare, Assam-Upper Burma 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Heath/Perry 1999 p24
"Often called 'Chingpaws' by the British, the Singphos were related to the Khamtis.  They appear to have comprised about a dozen main tribes which had established themselves on both sides of the Patkoi range separating Upper Burma from Assam following the Burmese invasion of 1818.  They were accused of depopulating entire districts by their slave-raids.  During the First Burma War they fought for the Burmese, but 16 of their 28 chiefs submitted to the British in 1826.
​    "However, raids sputtered on, and in 1843 hostilities erupted on a grand scale, prompted by the fact that the British had forbidden the Singphos to own slaves, thus leaving them unable to cultivate their lands.  The Singphos overwhelmed the outpost at Bisa, but attacks on two other posts were beaten off, and after several months of fighting the chiefs surrendered.  Many Singphos subsequently left Assam and returned to the Hukong Valley, beyond the frontier of British-administered territory.  There were no further conflicts, and in the second half of the 19th century the Singphos proved of considerable value to the British in curbing the worst excesses of the local Naga tribes.  They were thought to be capable of raising 9,000-10,000 men."

* Scott 2009 p88
"Capturing and selling slaves was such a mainstay of the Kachin economy that an early colonial official could declare that 'slavery is a national custom among the Kachins.'"

* Leach 1977 p90
"For a Kachin every kind of offence is a debt (hka) which can be settled by a process of arbitration and compensation, but a certain class of offences known as bunglat (feud) call for exceedingly heavy penalties and are considered to justify the offended person in taking violent reprisals.  Homicide, unjustified enslavement, and accidental wounding of a chief are all justifications for a feud, but the most usual and most typical Kachin feud is the ndang bunglat which arises when an unmarried girl dies in childbirth.  Furthermore, a feud against a person of chiefly lineage is twice as serious as one against a commoner.  For the offence to be committed by one person of chiefly blood against another, and between persons in mayu-dama relationship at that, makes settlement all the more difficult.  The addition of self-evident perjury would in the Kachin view make compromise virtually impossible."


* Heath/Perry 1999 p44
"Singpho dress usually comprised a short, dark blue or black cotton jacket and a chequered cloth 'kilt'.  The cotton or silk headscarf was most often white, but it could also be blue, red or chequered.  They frequently wore a broad bamboo 'coolile-hat' over this."

* Gilhodes 1996 p114
"Man's head-dress ... consists in a long red turban, blue or white, rolled in such a way as to leave the chignon visible in the middle."

* Gilhodes 1996 p111
"A man's dress is one of the simplest: a vest, palaung, of deep blue, sometimes white, crossed in front and going down a bit lower than the belt, then broad trousers, labu, of the same colour as the vest, and going down hardly lower than the knees.  A Kachin is, however, not so much attached to his costume that he rejects every other piece of clothing: he is often seen with Burmese clothesChinese coats and old European rags."


* Gilhodes 1996 p113
"Men always carry with them a sword, ninjthu, in a wooden sheath; it is their principal tool for their work; they use it as a knife, hatchet, plane, razor and even sometimes as pick-axe.  They hang it on their shoulder with a string of rattan threads, to which they like to fix one side of the lower jaw of a leopard, a wild boar or any other wild animal."

* Heath/Perry 1999 p44
"... [The dao was] carried in a distinctive sheath worn across the chest and under the left arm.  Its curved blade was 18-24in (45-60cm) long, and 11/2in (38mm) wide at the hilt, increasing to 21/2in (63mm) at its squared tip."