Almost everyone, old and young, men and women, boys and girls put Tanakha in their faces and on their skin. When I first saw this a few years ago, I could not understand why someone would want to walk around with some white paste smeared in the face. Sun protection yes ok, but otherwise? Now I have learned better: Tanakha is the most natural and simple thing that you can put in your face, it protects from the sun, makes the skin smooth, and prevents aging. You can just smear it on, or you can use it to make nice facial paintings. It is all natural, and the best make up for the skin, I have been told.
Tanakha is the grinded bark from the Tanakha tree and is sold everywhere in large quantities in Myanmar, together with a sandstone grinding mill. There are small Tanakha wood pieces and small sandstone grinders for small children, and there are larger pieces and large grinders for adults or for a more frequent use.
During one afternoon I stayed behind in a small farmhouse while Nut and Lin Thu went on motorbikes to search for lakes, which could not be reached by jeep and which were some 6 km away – too far to walk back and forth in an afternoon. The owners of the small farm, a 72 year old woman and her 52 year old daughter-in-law, entertained me. We talked, of course, first about how old we are, who is who, where I am from, and what my name is, all being translated by our driver. After this conversation they decided that I would need some Tanakha in my face and started to grind the bark together with some drops of water. Grinding turns the bark into a light brown, perfumed paste that is put in the face in large quantities. At first I did not put enough paste on, so they helped me to more. It seems to be important to see that one does have Tanakha in the face …. Very beautiful, said the 52 year old daughter-in-law, when she checked me out painted all in light brown.
When Nut and Lin Thu returned, I knew how to prepare Tanakha and Nut got his share too. Very beautiful, both women said, and laughed.
In the evening we went back to the restaurant where the young waiters all had Tanakha in their faces. Am sure they thought that we now would finally melt in the crowed!