By SOPHIE LAW FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 16:05 EST, 9 October 2019
Fascinating and vibrant portraits of the 'Mahu' on the Polynesian island of Tahiti offer a rare glimpse into the ancient spiritual community who identify as neither male nor female.
The extraordinary series of photographs showcase the island's 'third gender' painted in bright colours and adorned in flower garlands and shells as they pose on idyllic beaches against a backdrop of the South Pacific Ocean.
The images, captured by Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba - for her new exhibition 'Illusions: The Myth of the 'Vahine' through Gender Dysphoria' - offer an intimate portrayal of the fascinating culture who exist outwith the male-female divide.
Wikipedia:In many traditional communities, Māhū play an important role in carrying on Polynesian culture, and teaching "the balance of female and male throughout creation". Modern Māhū carry on traditions of connection to the land, language preservation, and the preservation and revival of cultural activities including traditional dances, songs, and the methods of playing culturally-specific musical instruments. Symbolic tattooing is also a popular practice. Modern Māhū do not alter their bodies through what others would consider gender reassignment surgery, but just as any person in Hawaiian/Tahitian society dress differently...
In Tahiti, 'mahu' are born biologically male but family and friends believe they do not conform to traditional gender roles from an early age.
The group play key spiritual roles in the community, as guardians of rituals, dance and also to provide care for children and the elderly.
'Mahu have this other sense that men or women don't have,' Ms Leuba, who immerses herself in the culture for six months a year, told CNN. 'It is well known in (French Polynesia) that they have something special.'
The photographer - who met most of her subjects as strangers on the street - interviews them for hours before taking their picture in order to gain their trust.
Continue to read here at CNNSyle:
|PHOTO: Some gender diverse individuals in the Pacific do not see themselves as trans, but some others do. (Facebook: Samoan Fa'afafine Association)