Hundreds of men, women and children covered in white dust occupy a small lane in Mandalay, Myanmar each day. If you catch them sleeping they look like stone, until their eyes blink open and the Kyauk Sit Tan Lane carvers go back to work.
The dust-covered faces of the Kyauk Sit Tan carvers draw just as much attention these days as the majestic Buddha statues they bring to life.
Children wield power tools and spray white dust into the balmy air while hoards of women add final touches to stone faces and muscular men offload huge statues from trucks that creak under the weight.
In a city that throbs with artists this little lane its beating heart.
Mandalay is synonymous with Burmese craftsmanship – gold leafing, embroidery, wood carving – and especially stone carving, dating back to the 18th century, made mainly from alabaster and marble.
The statues that are brought to life in this little lane in Mandalay are shipped all over the world – China, Thailand, Singapore, Europe, USA – where they occupy stupas, doorways, mountaintops and places of reverence. The heads of many nationalities bow before the statues on a daily basis.
Many of the workshops here have been handed down four generations.
And at most workshops the entire family is involved. The men hammer and lift heavy stone while women and children add intricate detail. Everywhere there is dust. It clings to hair, eyelashes, nostrils, hands, shops and cars – hanging low in the tropical heat. It’s a compelling scene, like a volcano has spat ash onto this one lane in a city usually dusty red.
It’s a scene drawing travelers. They come to see the carvers and their craft – set in stone for centuries here in a little lane in Mandalay.