Mawlynnong is a rarified place in the world. Located in jungle of the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, just 95 houses and a population of around 500 lives as a matrilineal society on the border of Bangladesh. This small village is home to the indigenous Khasi people. As a matrilineal society, women inherit land, children take their mothers’ names, and men marry into their wives’ family homes.This social organization is striking in India, where sons are preferred without question.
The setting is also unique: lush, and so well-cared for, tourists across India visit to marvel at the lack of trash. Known also for its living root bridges, the place is now called “God’s own garden”.
The setting is also unique: lush, and so well-cared for, tourists across India visit to marvel at the lack of trash. With fines assessed for littering, residents take care of their own trash. All the residents of Mawlynnong can read and write, and their homes have a toilet.
The girls and young women of Mawlynnong attracted the attention of Berlin-based photographer Karolin Klüppel, who originally travelled to Mawlynnong to study these eco-friendly habits among the people. Last year, the German photographer traveled there to photograph the girls of the village in their homes and outdoors. In her series “Mädchenland,” or “girl-land,” Klüppel shows her subjects in classically girlish poses. She did this to highlight how adult they actually are.
In a statement sent to HuffPost, Küppel describes the inverse at play as “a completely opposite impression… namely a certain elevation of the girls above childhood, a strong self-awareness and pronounced air of self-sufficiency.”
At a very young age the children take over the responsibilities of their mother and before they turn eight they do the household chores and care for younger siblings,” she says. “Although this might seem like a limitation of childhood, I’ve never met happier or more self-confident children than in Mawlynnong.”. .
Mawlynnong, though, is a safe haven for girls, who attend the village school until the age of 11 or 12, at which age they go to stay with relatives in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, to continue their studies. After that, they decide whether to attend university or return to the village.