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Athlete in scarf

Late at night, I turned on the TV. The 200M women's final of international athletic meeting was beginning.

All athlete set on the marks. Then they started with the sound of pistol. Shortly after, the athlete in scarf and spats led the group. She kept leading and finished at the top. It's Asian Game. But it's so impressive to me that the woman athlete from Muslim country got the gold medal. Or is it normal these days?

At least in the country I've ever visited, it's clearly defined "Woman is IN and man is OUT" So generally, women wasn't openly shown up to the outer society. "Taking portrait" was my job. So it's very hard to photograph women's portrait in Muslim country. At certain point, I gave up to take a picture of woman in those country. And since then, I have kept in mind it becomes a series of men's portraits when I work in Islamic country.

However the session at Kashgar of Xinjiang region in China was unexpectedly happy to me. The women were so vital and open minded. Although there were some distinctions between men's and the women's job, the women worked so vividly.
In the Xinjiang region, the most popular occupation for women was dress maker. I saw the dress making shop here and there in the town. When I was walkin' down the street, I had eye contact accidentally with a dress maker woman through the window. She seemed be boring. At high rate, she watched outside. She usually grinned to me. The Japanese with dread locks hair style was some amusement for her.

Shortly after that, the other women's faces were shown in the window. The women invited me with beckon. Of course, I had no reason to resist the fascination of beautiful ladies. As a result, I stepped into the shop. There were several sewing machines in the atelier. And young women face to them for sewing clothes. They looked like from mid teen to twenties in their age.
The woman in Kashgar were very shy. So they usually hesitated being taken photo or even rejected it jokingly even if once they invite me to the atelier. However after visiting a couple of times, they said OK to my request. After that, taking a beautiful portrait must be my sincerity as a photographer.

I walked around all day and often stopped by the ground of Kashgar Normal School. The campus of the normal school was a modern college town itself. Every day in late afternoon, students began the football game on the ground. Shortly after, young couples came to the stand which was made by simple concrete steps one after another. I supposed it was a very popular date course.
In the twilight of Silk Road sunset, a couple was sitting on the concrete bench. However the woman hesitated sitting on it. Because the seat was so dusty. Without any moments, the man took a handkerchief and place it on the dusty concrete. Then they sat together and got start the conversation. Shy Uyghur guy scratched his head when the girl chaffed him. To be interesting, all the couples took almost same behavior.

The gender equality issue in Muslim society has been argued for long time. I think it is not right denying the traditional system of the society just for the reason that the system does not match to the Non-Muslim society standard.
Maybe some day, the time when Muslim society needs to change the tradition slightly comes. They should adjust it from time to time by themselves, not being forced by somebody else. To the criticizing side and criticized side, the thing they need to have must be just "the mind respecting the different culture" and "little flexibility" after all.

Nov. 2006

Today's piece
" Dress maker " Kashgar, Xinjiang Region, China 2006

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