It doesn’t seem possible that they crossed Tibet’s celestial heights two thousand years ago wearing those embroidered costumes. Yet it is lovely to imagine the Karen men and women descending the Saluen River valley to settle between present-day Myanmar and Thailand, wearing even then their splendid colorful tunics. Vertical and horizontal patterns topped by a narrow V-neck with tufts of fabric hanging down like fringe. They still wear them. In the photo showing him holding the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize, Paul Sein Twa, leader of the Karen people, is wearing a red one.
ROBIN HOOD OF SHERWOOD FOREST
Robin Hood, the bow and arrow-slinging hero from Richard the Lionheart’s England wore a tunic, and if you ask around what color it was, almost everyone will agree: green. We can visualize him making a home in Sherwood Forest. Aside from the dress code, what binds these two characters – the second might be legendary, but the first, Paul, is tenaciously real – is that they both led their community to shelter in the forest trees.
PAUL SEIN TWA OF THE SALUEN RIVER FOREST
In upcoming Journal issues, we will discuss how this could have happened in Myanmar. Another story of resistance at the crossroads between Nature and Society. We’ll find that heroes dress in red or green. With, or without a hood.