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'A-lun-bai-sayah', snake charmers with hamadryad [Burma]

'A-lun-bai-sayah', snake charmers with hamadryad [Burma]

Photographer: Watts and Skeen

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1895

Shelfmark: Photo 430/15(58)

Item number: 4301558

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of two snake charmers with hamadryads in Burma (Myanmar), from the Curzon Collection. The King Cobra or Hamadryad (ophiophagus hannah), is the largest of all poisonous snakes and can attain a length of 5 ms (15ft). It is widely

distributed in Burma and lives by feeding off other snakes. Snake charming was

once regarded as a mystical practice because the snake appears to dance hypnotically in response to music played by the snake charmer, either on a flute-like instrument or with cymbals as shown here. In actual fact the snake is rearing up in a natural defensive posture, and sways in reaction to movement. Cobras are particularly used by snake charmers because they respond well to visual cues, and their distinctive hoods give them a striking appearance. In this studio portrait the snake charmer’s performance is restaged for a western audience as an exotic visual spectacle signifying the oriental.

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