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The Colorful Akha Stay Connected to Nature All Regions People & Tribes | 0 comments

The Akha offer travelers a unique cultural experience. You can view their humble lives and watch them chase away evil spirits.
The Colorful Akha Stay Connected to Nature

The Akha are an interesting people. They live in the high altitudes of the mountains spanning Myanmar (Burma), China, Laos and Thailand. They originated in Yunnan province in China though they claim to originally have come from the Himalayas (this is disputed by some anthropologists).

They arrived in Myanmar in the late 19th and early 20th century during a war between Laos and Burma. The Akha have their own language and distinct culture. In general terms, all Akha can understand each other no matter the dialect being spoken. There is no written language though missionaries have tried to introduce it..

Religion

The Akha are a truly animist people and their religion “zahv” is focused on their bond with their land and with the natural order of things. The Akha believe that anyone who follows their belief system is automatically Akha no matter their genetic heritage.

Zahv says that once people and spirits were kindred born of the same womb. Then they fell out as families are wont to do and the spirits moved into the forests and the people remained in their homes. The spirits now come back at times to cause illness and take revenge on the people they left behind. The Akha believe that in addition to people rice also has a soul and must be protected through the rituals used to ward off the spirits.

Each village has a headman who is the ultimate authority in all things spiritual and it is his responsibility to ensure that spirit gates are constructed each year to keep the evil spirits out.


Image source from: http://foter.com/f/photo/7622847096/5e24311bcf/

Culture

The Akha have strict rules that govern behavior from birth to death and offer strict guidance for life and marriage. Child brides are not permitted. Polygamy on the other hand is. Marriages may be from within the community and from without. Until about 20 years ago, twins would have been put to death at birth as they were considered beasts. There are ritual preparations for funerals and each death must be assessed in order to ensure that the evil spirits do not return.

The Akha have always been farmers and traders. However, in recent years like it or not they have become the focus of tourism. In Myanmar this has so far been a minimal issue and their culture remains as it always was. In Thailand things are different and “everyday life” for the Akha there is more of a stage show than a reality.

The Akha have also been victims of their place in the “Golden Triangle” and as a minority with very few rights many have turned to opium and/or heroin as a means of comfort.

Food

Akha food takes its lead from Yunnan province and, like their Chinese neighbors, just about anything can and usually is used in their cooking. Meat is popular and consumed regularly as are eggs. They Akha do eat insects as well but usually as part of traditional medicine and not as a regular dietary supplement. Honey is very popular. The favourite Akha meal is Barking Deer.


Image source from: http://foter.com/f/photo/5624131130/9722317988/

National Dress

The Akha can be recognized anywhere by their extraordinary eye-catching dress. The women wear indigo cloth in leggings, black skirts, white beaded sporrans, and jackets with heavy embroidered designs. They also wear striking headdresses. At least in theory they do. The truth is that, in general, Akha tend not to wear traditional dress except at special ceremonies. The only time they are seen in their full regalia nowadays is in areas where tourists flock to see them – like in Thailand.

Festivals

The Akha have a Swing Festival every year in August. Its precise date varies but it comes exactly 120 days after the village sows the rice crop for the year. During the festival, the people make offerings to the spirits (of food, water, and alcohol) to keep them happy for the year ahead. Unmarried women prepare all year by making clothes that best demonstrate their beauty and to let the men know that it is time for them to marry.


More attractions in All Regions? Check out: Carve Killer Waves on Myanmar's Beaches

If you're interested in People & Tribes attractions - check out: Bamar (The Burmese)

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