Akha People of Northern Laos

Akha People of Northern Laos

Tribal and aboriginal peoples all over the world are under pressure from the modern way of life, which threatens their culture and viability. This film is about one such group: the Akha people of Laos.

One of the characteristics of tribal life is that it is village based, and the highest authority is often the village head or leaders, they have never organised into larger groups, and therefore are prone to repression from societies that are more hierarchical.

The pressures on the Akha in the past couple of centuries have seen them turn to opium as their main cash crop, which indeed brings in money, but also has caused a lot of addiction and subsequent inability to maintain family and tribal life.

As opium growing is now being suppressed the Akha have had to find other ways of making a living, and villages have many times moved from their highland retreats to the lowland in search of land and work.

This has often had a devastating effect on the health of the population, and on their cultural traditions. An interesting aside in the film is when the head man of one of the remote villages speaks of their being little to no illness in their village, and food aplenty, and without needing cash to buy it.

Of course at all times people, be they tribal or otherwise, are called upon to adapt to changing circumstances and the Akha have to do that also, but the fact remains that tribal and aboriginal people are often devastated by assimilation into the wider society and their language and traditions are lost.

This film made by Martin Gronemeyer, who seems to be affiliated with a German-Laos NGO, recognises all these different factors and brings a very balanced report on the challenges faced by the modern Akha and the differing responses to these difficulties.

 

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