The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Photo Essay: A girl born with hair covering half her face finds new life

Bhawana Thami, who lives in the village of Dusikharka in Nepal, suffered from a rare medical condition that covered half her face with hair. (Narendra Shrestha/EPA)

To many in the Nepali village of Dushikharka, Bhawana Thami was a “monster,” a “witch” because she looked different. When his daughter first saw a photo of herself, her father recalls, she was so scared she began to cry, according to Narendra Shrestha, whose remarkable photographs have now helped spread awareness about Bhawana’s condition.

Bhawana, 9, was born with a rare mole disease that left half of her face covered with hair and that, if left untreated, could have become cancerous. Her father, Kalu Man Thami, worried for his child's self-esteem, would not allow her to look into a mirror.

Last year, Shrestha, a Nepali photographer, met Bhawana at a hospital in Kathmandu, where she was scheduled for surgery. After the operation, when the bandage was removed and the young girl was given a mirror to see her new face, she held onto the mirror for 15 minutes, Shrestha recalls.

Bhawana recently had a second surgery that completely removed the hair from her face. She will undergo a third procedure when she turns 14.

Bhawana's father hopes that the surgery will allow his daughter to begin a new life.