The remote Indian village of Mawlynnong is known worldwide for being Asia’s “cleanest village.” But Karolin Klüppel visited the small community of 500 people for another reason: to photograph the future leaders of the rare matrilineal society, where women are in charge of finances, land is passed down through daughters, and children take on their mothers’ names. The resulting images, entitled “Mädchenland,” or Kingdom of Girls, are on display at The Half King in New York City until September 13.

Rather than photograph every aspect of Khasi life, Klüppel spent nine months taking portraits of the young girls she encountered in the village, capturing their confidence in vibrant colors. I decided to focus on the younger girls because I was so impressed by their self-assured appearance, and thought that this must be how matrilineality becomes visible,” Klüppel told Fotografia Magazine. Where one might expect images of shy smiles or timid looks, the girls are defiantly free, exhibiting commanding body language in every frame.

Klüppel has shared five images from her essay with us, as well as some commentary, which you can see by clicking through the above slideshow.

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