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"Easter-Jews": A Dying Ritual in Lith...
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
09 Apr 2015

Holy Saturday in Pievėnai (Mažeikiai district municipality, Lithuania).

Every Easter, in the small Lithuanian village of Pievenai, a group of young men in uniform guard the local church to ensure their yearly procession goes undisturbed.  However, they are not guarding against street gangs or violent criminals, they are guardian against what they call the “Easter Jews”; a group of young local men wearing masks and clothes resembling visual stereotypes of orthodox Jews.

 

Both groups of young men are part of a dying Lithuanian Easter ritual in which the people in uniform prevent the so-called “Easter Jews” from breaking into the church, stealing the crucifix, distracting worshipers from god, and disturbing the resurrection of Christ.

 

On the eve of Easter, the guards begin their night watch, as the young men dressed up as “Easter Jews” begin trying to infiltrate the church and disrupt the evening mass. The guard’s night watch continues through the night until the last worshipers have left the church. The guards then go to rest in a nearby house where they play cards and drink beer.

The next morning, at the crack of dawn, a beating drum awakens the villagers and summons them to the morning mass. The guards return to the church, along with the “Easter Jews”. After the service is held, worshipers and guards begin a procession in which they walk around the church three times. As this is happening, the “Easter-Jews” run around the church in the opposite direction a total of nine times, with the intention of disrupting the procession and the resurrection of Christ.

 

There are four teams that dress up as soldiers and they all wear different colored uniforms. The red uniforms represent the blood of Christ, the green ones symbolize regeneration and hope, the blue ones symbolize the ascension of Jesus, and the white ones represent the sheet in which the body of the Christ was wrapped.

 

According to the local priest Saulius Styra the origin of the tradition is not known: "It is said that virtually all the churches had such soldiers before the [Second World] War." However, locals say that the Pievenai is the only village that still practices the tradition.

 

Most Lithuanians today are unaware of this outdated tradition. For many of those who are aware of it, they regard it as a relic of the past and an outdated remnant of old-world fascist mentalities. For them it is out of step with modern times.

 

However, those participating do not see it that way. For them it is simply a local tradition derived from the bible that is not meant to offend or demonize anyone. “Easter-Jews are tempting believers,” explains Priest Styra, “they are equated to devils. And this scenario is taken out of Jesus’ Crucifixion [from the Bible]. In the region where Jesus was crucified, everyone was Jewish, and I do not see any humiliation of Jewish people in this play”.

 

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Lithuania Easter 2
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

On Easter morning the commissionaire€“ reports to the priest that the cross was kept safe.

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Lithuania Easter 4
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

To show their hostility, the "Easter-Jews" frolick and run around the church in the opposite direction of the procession. The procession walks three times around the church while the "Easter-Jews" run around it reverse nine times.

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Lithuania Easter 5
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

An elderly woman at the Easter Mass gathering in Pievanai.

While the "Easter-Jews" ritual was commonplace in Lithuania before World War Two, it is now only held in the village of Pievanai.

Most of Lithaunia's once thriving Jewish population was exterminated during the Holocaust.

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Lithuania Easter 7
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

Villagers are summoned to morning Requiem Mass by a beating drum at the break of daw.

It is thought that the sound of the drum is the sound of joy. The sound also said to deter evil spirits who try to hinder the resurrection.

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Lithuania Easter 8
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
04 Apr 2015

When there is no one left in the church, all the teams come back to the house: to sleep, to have a snack, or just relax. In the morning €“ before believers start to gather,€“ they are go on watch again.

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Lithuania Easter 15
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

An "Easter-Jew" sews mayhem in the church and tries to steal the cross.

"I think that the festival is a beautiful custom of the village," explains Jonas, the man behind the mask. "My grandfather, my father, and my brother all took part in it and that is why I am participating too. For four years I had acted as a soldier only this year I tried the role of a Jew. It is a pleasure to play the soldier’s role, but I enjoyed being a Jew much more."

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Lithuania Easter 11
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

The commissionaire, soldiers and "Easter-Jews" play cards together as they feast.

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Lithuania Easter 12
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

A soldier reacting quickly after hearing the color name of his team.

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Lithuania Easter 13
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

Soldiers keep watch over the cross, which is the centerpiece of the entire ritual. It is the goal of the soldiers to protect the cross from the "Easter Jews" who are trying to steal it.

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Lithuania Easter 14
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

The commissionaire, the leader of the soldiers, plays cards with team members.

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Lithuania Easter 16
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

All teams gather in the church at the start of the ritual to salute the cross.

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Lithuania Easter 17
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

The last smoke before the start of the ceremony.

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Lithuania Easter 18
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

Before and during the night watch, soldiers are take turns drinking beer from the same glass.

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Lithuania Easter 19
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

Before night watch youth gather in the house.

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Lithuania Easter 21
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

A member of the green team assists his teammate in getting dressed.

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Lithuania Easter 21
Pievėnai
By Domantas Pipas
03 Apr 2015

In the house closest to the church, the coats of the soldiers are hanged before the feast. The white team (the coat hanging above) did not participate this year.

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A Contemporary Hell: Life Inside a Ba...
Faridpur, Bangladesh
By Miguel Candela
07 Mar 2015

Prostitution in Bangladesh has been legal since the year 2000. However, as Bangladesh is a conservative Muslim country, prostitution carries negative social stigmas. Despite this, severe poverty and economic stagnation have forced women previously employed in other sectors to become prostitutes. Furthermore, many sex workers are underage and child prostitution is rife. Female sex workers are often abused and and always underpaid, earning as little as $0.50 per customer.

However, there is growing awareness among sex workers and they have started to organize themselves in unions. One organization of sex workers is called the “Prostitute Association of Faridfur,” founded in Faridpur district, near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. These associations were formed to establish a “union” among sex workers and protect them from abuse. Despite the face of a unified force in having associations to represent these sex workers, radical Islamic conservatives have openly condemned these women. In 2010, these radicals burned a brothel to the ground. That incident injured two women and left all of the other tenants homeless. 

These photos offer intimate portraits of women who's daily lives consist of abuse and exploitation as they struggle to survive on the fringes of one of the poortest societies on earth. 

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Chinese opera struggles to survive ne...
Bangkok
By Biel Calderon
24 Sep 2014

Lao Sa Jia Sung, an itinerant Thai-Chinese opera troupe, has been performing Teochew Opera, an slight variation of Chinese Opera, since the mid 60’s. Some of them are part of the troupe since the early beginnings of the company.

Traditional Chinese opera is one of the oldest performing arts in the world. The opera dates back to China's early history with its importance ramping up in the 13th century during the Song Dynasty. This ancient art combines drama, music, literature along with acrobatics and martial arts.

It is hardly seen on stage in Thailand in the 21st century, except during the Vegetarian Festival, the Chinese New Year and other holiday periods, always around Chinese temples and shrines. Modern forms of entertainment, like TV Soap Operas and the Internet, are widely established within Thai society, thus it is very difficult for traditional opera groups to attract new public. Despite the difficulties in gaining new audience and, therefore, funding, Chinese opera resists disappearing and keeps performing in the Southeast Asian country.

Lao Sa Jia Sung recently performed during the eleven days of the Vegetarian Festival at the Chinese Jing Sia Ma shrine in the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown. The team, consisting of about 30 members, delivers a delightful daily show for its mostly Thai-Chinese audience, combining literature, theatre and musical performance, with plenty of old fashioned entertainment. They spend most of the time together, working full time for the company.
Performers spend several hours a day applying makeup backstage and getting into character. "With our commitment with this performing art, there is no room for tiredness", one of the performers says. They need to be physically and mentally ready since each performance lasts for about five hours.

Now, they are on the road again. The troupe will now travel around Malaysia for the next six months. They will come back to Thailand after the Malaysian tour. Despite their difficulties, the members of Lao Sa Jia Sung show strong enthusiasm and fight to keep alive this ancestral form of Chinese art and entertainment. As one of the performers stresses, “It's our way of life.”

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Huge plumes of smoke reach to the sky as followers of Tian Du Yuanshuai set off a mass of firecrackers under a figurine of the deity. The devotees then beat on a drum and march forth.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The cavalcade for Tian Du Yuanshuai. A temple-goer wheels sacred weavings down the road.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The cavalcade for Tian Du Yuanshuai. A temple-goers wheels sacred items down the road. Behind him the powerful symbol of the tiger.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Smoke fills the air in a busy road in Kaohsiung as the cavalcade for Tiandou Yuanshuai marches forth, intermittently setting of these huge gunpowder explosions.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Exhuausted from the day's exertions, a Tiandou Yuanshuai follower takes a rest on the blackened effigy of Marshal Tian Du, which they have been parading down the road and setting off masses of firecrackers under.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Celebration of Tian Du Yuanshuai's birthday. The remnants of used firecrackers are kicked aside to prepare for more explosive celebrations.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The cavalcade for Tiandou Yuanshuai. Taoist devotees take a break from wheeling a golden gong down the road.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Figure of Tian Du Yuanshuai bearing his name "田都元帥" around his neck.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Players of the traditional Chinese instrument the suona, which often accompanies deity's birthday celebrations.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The sign bears the name of the Taiwanese Taoist temple that this group represents. The air is filled with the smoke of huge firecracker explosions.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Experienced player of the traditional Chinese instrument the suona, which often accompanies deity's birthday celebrations.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Celebration of Tian Du Yuanshuai's birthday. Three temple brothers with traditional tiger face paint.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.