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Akha

akha01The Akha, referred to as the "Kaw" or "Yi-Kaw" in Shan State, often live in highlands 1,000m or more above sea level. They have practiced slash-and-burn agriculture from long ago, and have moved from place to place in search of land to cultivate. Their population is roughly 200,000 in Myanmar, 50,000 in Thailand, and 20,000 in Laos.

A group of people who are a part of the 1,050,000 "Hani" peoples of Yunnan province in China speak a language which is very similar to Akha.

An animist Akha village will have two entrances, with gates called "Law Kang" which are about 2m high. On top of the gates' wooden crossbeams are carvings of birds and swords, and star-shaped charms. Also, on either side of the gates, pairs of wooden dolls shaped like men and women are placed. These are to ward off evil spirits from the jungle and are said to prevent disaster and disease from befalling the villagers.

Besides the short skirts worn bye the women, their headdresses also distinguish them from other tribes as being Akha. The helmet-like headdress is made of silver medallions, silver work, beads or shell. It is worn when working in the fields and when sleeping; as it is believed that removing it leaves one open to misfortune caused by evil spirits. It appears that most of the Akha around the Kyaing Tong area wear the headdress with the "board" in the back. But there is a small group called the Loimwe Akha , who wear the headdress with a round "loop" in the back which hardly can be seen nowadays. North from Kyaing Tong, near Maing Kat area, are four known villages of the Ajao Akhas whose women wear the "pointed helmet". Such different types of costumes can be seen at the markets around the Kyaing Tong area.

Akha women are renowned for being kind and hard-working. Woman preparing a loom and woman spinning thread. Homespun cotton cloth is dyed with indigo leaves, and eventually made into their traditional clothing.

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