Duwa Walu Sin Wa (b.1948) comes from a long line of Kachin ‘Jaiwa’s’ or storytellers. Born in Ninghpum Village, Sumprabum Township, the cultural heartland of the Jinghpaw community, his father, the head of his clan, sent Duwa Walu Sin Wa to live with his uncle when he was 10 years old. This uncle was the clan’s Jaiwa. As his uncle spoke in an unknown tongue when telling these stories at times of celebration, Duwa would translate for the villages, committing the stories to memory himself. He remained an animist until he was 30 years old, when, like many other Kachin, he converted to Christianity. Duwa went on to work as volunteer primary school teacher, a translator for the Kachin Independence Organisation and a Director of a jade company before retiring and becoming the Chairman of the Kachin Culture and Literature Co-operation. Over the years, the Jaiwa’s disappeared as the bible replaced the older myths and legends and now it is only with men like Duwa, in their 70’s, who remember their community stories by heart.
For more on Duwa Walu Sin Wa and other writers from the borderlands of Myanmar please take a look at my book ‘The People Elsewhere: Unbound Journeys with the Storytellers of Myanmar’