18 February 2012

Gazing at Akha Dancers in Bangkok

The Akha are a hilltribe from Northern Thailand, closely related to the Hani of China's Yunnan province. They are a shamanic group that shares the ancient universal archetype that their goddess spins a universe where nature is not distinguished from humankind. Although many Akha, especially younger people, profess Christianity, the distinctive Akha Way aka akha zang still runs deep in their consciousness. 

The headdresses worn by women are the most spectacular and elaborate item of the Akha dress. Akha women define their age or marital status with the style of headdress worn.

Akha woman, Akha headdress, Thai hilltribes, performer, portrait, headshot, Northern Thailand, Bangkok

Akha woman, Akha headdress, Thai hilltribes, performer, portrait, headshot, Northern Thailand, Bangkok

Akha woman, Akha headdress, Thai hilltribes, performer, portrait, headshot, Northern Thailand, Bangkok

Seeds like small, white Job’s tears are used for the Akha people's elaborate headdress. So are coloured beads, the glass beads of yore now replaced by Chinese plastic. Some Akha groups use feathers and pompoms. Cowrie shells are still used; they were traditionally traded to a variety of Akha tribes and became a sign of wealth, having come to this landlocked hill tribe from afar. Above all silver is prised, especially coins, a clear statement of wealth and status. Old colonial silver coins like French-Indochina piastre or silver rupees from British India are valued. Poorer people use Thai baht coins. Silver is pounded and fashioned into coins and balls, and valuable ornaments become heirlooms passed on from generation to generation.


Portrait photographs of Akha hilltribe people in Matt Hahnewald's

No comments: