Nine School Girls
Year and Location: Taken between 1885-1895 in Mawlamyine, Myanmar
The photograph of nine schoolgirls in Mawlamyine, Myanmar, captures a moment in time during the British colonial period in Myanmar. The girls in the photograph appear distressed, with expressionless faces that hint at the harsh reality of colonialism. The image serves as a historical artifact that can tell us about the experiences of the local people during this time period.
The British colonial period in Myanmar began in 1824 when the British East India Company annexed the coastal region of Rakhine. Over time, the British continued to expand their control over Myanmar until it became a British colony in 1885 (Tun, 2017). The British implemented policies that favored the interests of British colonizers, leading to widespread exploitation of the local population (Charney, 2017).
The photograph of the schoolgirls in Mawlamyine provides a glimpse into the lives of the local population during this period. The girls in the photograph are likely from a privileged background, as they are dressed in school uniforms. However, their distressed expressions suggest that they are not immune to the effects of colonialism. It is possible that the school they attended was a British-run institution, which would have exposed the girls to the British education system. This would have been a double-edged sword, as while education is an important tool for upward social mobility, it also served to reinforce British dominance over the local population.
The British colonial period in Myanmar is marked by its exploitation of natural resources, forced labor, and the introduction of capitalist modes of production. The photograph of the schoolgirls in Mawlamyine serves as a reminder of the human cost of these policies. The girls in the photograph may have experienced the loss of land or forced labor in industries such as rubber, which were heavily promoted by the British.
The expressionless faces of the schoolgirls in the photograph are a poignant reminder of the psychological toll of colonialism. The girls may have been forced to navigate a world where their traditional way of life was being systematically dismantled. The introduction of Western education and culture would have challenged their sense of identity and belonging. The distress visible on their faces may be a reflection of the trauma that many local people experienced during this time period.
The meaning of this image for the artist or photographer is unknown, as is the identity of the person who captured this moment in time. However, it is likely that the image was intended to document the experiences of the local population during the British colonial period. The photograph serves as a historical record of a time period that has had a profound impact on Myanmar’s trajectory as a nation.
Myanmar’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule is well documented. The distress visible on the faces of the schoolgirls in the photograph serves as a reminder of the local population’s resistance to British policies. The photograph captures a moment in time where the seeds of resistance were being sown. The introduction of Western education and culture was not an acceptance of British colonialism but a tool for the local population to challenge British dominance.
The meaning of the photograph for the local people is complex. On one hand, the photograph serves as a reminder of the trauma and exploitation that the local population experienced during the British colonial period. On the other hand, it also serves as a reminder of the resilience and resistance of the local population. The photograph captures a moment in time where the seeds of resistance were being sown.
The photograph of the schoolgirls in Mawlamyine is a valuable historical artifact that provides insight into the experiences of the local population during the British colonial period in Myanmar. The photograph serves as a reminder of the human cost of colonialism and the psychological toll it had on the local population. However, it also serves as a testament to the resilience and resistance of the local population in the face of British colonial policies. The photograph captures a moment in time where the seeds of resistance were being sown, and it is a testament to the ongoing struggle for justice and self-determination in Myanmar. By understanding the experiences of the past, we can work towards a more just and equitable future.
Tun, Than. “British Colonialism and its Effects on Burma.” Journal of Developing
Societies, vol. 33, no. 2, 2017, pp. 187-204. doi: 10.1177/0169796X17705280.
Charney, Michael W. “The Future of the Past in Myanmar: Historical Narratives, Colonial
Legacies, and Engagements with the World.” The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 76, no. 2, 2017, pp. 273-298. doi: 10
“Myanmar.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. Retrieved May
1,2023, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Myanmar/The-initial-impact-of-colonialism