We are working with these beautiful people to create a custom 2-pocket Joey made from handwoven silk and natural cotton. Look for our new product launch this summer complete with wholesale pricing to approved buyers!! In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to our new friends . . .
Akha History and Culture
The Akha hilltribe people have immigrated from Burma and China over the last 100 years to the country of Thailand. They also reside in Laos and some in Vietnam. They have come seeking freedom from the conditions in Burma and China. Perhaps originally from Tibet, they are a gentle people who live off the land. They have survived by hunting, gathering, and “slash and burn” agriculture. Today, an Akha traveling to Bangkok some 500 miles from Chiang Rai to work for six months is not unusual. If an Akha person can get a Thai citizenship card, it is considered to be a great achievement within the Akha village community.
Growing rice on hillsides is still practiced throughout Thailand, but much has changed as the Akha have moved to a cash economy. Today the Akha make a living by growing cash crops such as cabbage, corn, rice, soybean, coffee, and tomatoes. It was about thirty years ago in Thailand that the growing of opium was a great problem, but through the efforts of many people including Thai government program officials and agricultural experts, opium has been replaced with other crops since then. Today, the Akha can make much more money by (for example) growing coffee instead of opium. However, addiction to opium and other drugs is still a problem in Thailand as these illegal substances are still coming in from Burma and Laos.
Akha hilltribe people like to live higher up on mountains sides around 3000 feet, but many Akha villages have moved to the lowlands for convenience. Today, there are about 75,000 Akha hilltribe people living in Thailand.
There are three major styles of Akha dress. An Akha woman’s special costume consists of a headdress, a jacket, short skirt, beaded sashes, and leggings. An Akha man’s special outfit usually includes an ornate jacket and dark pants. In Thailand, there are three major styles of Akha dress — U Lo, Loi Mi, and Pa Mi. More recently, more of the Akha are adopting the global “western style” of a T-shirt and bluejeans. In most Akha villages, Akha people are dressing in this western style now except for special occasions. However, many of the older Akha women still wear their headdress daily. Akha men who don’t dress in western style wear a “longi” that’s common in Burma.
The Village Gate
Some Akha mountain villages have a special “village gate” that is thought can protect the village from bad spirits. Inside the gate is the “safe spiritual realm” of the village, where outside the gate is the realm of spirits who are thought capable of doing harm to an Akha person. It is used mainly at special times of the year such as the New Year festival. Today, most Christian Akha villages do not have a village gate.
The Akha religion involves nine ancestral offerings. The Akha uphold their ancestors because it is believed that they can give blessings on those still alive. Also, mixed in with the ancestral Akha ceremonies are evil-spirit beliefs. Making offerings for protection from the evil spirits is still a practice among non-Christian Akha. One belief is that divinity spirits who created this world control all sickness and bad things that may happen, so often sacrifices must be made to “keep the spirits happy”. If there’s an accident, tragedy, or death in the village, an explanation must be found by the Akha villagers. Usually, the village “shaman” (who could be the village “headman”) is consulted, and a reason is sought from the shaman as to why the bad event has happened.
Information on the Akha People was provided courtesy of our friends at Izaara Arts ~