Saving ancient Akha culture in Chiang Rai: A US government grant | Bangkok Post: learning

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Saving ancient Akha culture in Chiang Rai: A US government grant

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Traditional religious rituals, family genealogies, children's songs, games and literature that have been passed on orally for centuries are being preserved for the future. 

 Swing Festival

The Akha are a group of hill tribe farmers known for their artistry. They live in small villages in Yunnan, China where they are known as "Hani" as well as Laos, Burma and northern Thailand where they number around 80,000 people. In Thailand, Akha villages are popular tourist destinations for so-called "trekking" tours.

In the photo above Akha Swing Ceremony is performed to greet US delegates at a reception ceremony for a US government grant to preserve Akha heritage

For more details about the project read the full story here.

Click button to listen to Akha Culture Project and rightclick to download

Hill tribe hits a high point: A US grant will help an Akha community hang onto its traditions by Anurat Thepthong

In a small community on a remote mountain in Mae Suai district, an American grant is helping ward off cultural extinction...

The money will support a pilot project preserving Akha culture through documentation, literacy training and cultural education for the next 26 months until December 2012.

The project will document annual animist religious rituals in the village, whose people are one of four sub-groups of the Akha people in Thailand. Records will also be made of family genealogies, traditional children's songs, games and literature passed on orally over centuries.

Educational material will be produced for Akha literacy training and cultural education. About 40 Akha primary and secondary students will be taught in Khas, a new common orthography agreed upon by Akha people from China, Burma, Thailand and Laos.

...The swing is the centrepiece of a festival called Yaerkuqdzaq (pronounced yae-ku-jar in Akha language).

The festival honours an Akha hero, Yaerkuq, who sacrificed his life defending the tribe's land in a catastrophic pest attack on their crops.

The tale goes that a serious plague of pests spread over the Akha land after farmers killed insects while farming their land.

The Akha people sought help from their supreme god, the Aqpoeq Miqyaer (pronounced aa-per-mi-yae).

The god sent his son, Yaerkuq, to fight the pests and he began collecting poisonous herbs.

Yaerkuq mixed the herbs with his own blood to lure the pests into eating them.

He killed many pests with this concoction. But as there were large swarms of pests, he had to use up his last drop of blood to kill them all.

The vengeful insects and vermin spirits which survived the slaughter went to Aqpoeq Miqyaer and demanded justice.

Aqpoeq Miqyaer promised to punish the Akha people responsible for the killing by hanging them one by one.

The Akha did not dare protest. They decided to have fun with the punishment instead.

They built a huge structure with four poles erected to form a square base. The poles are tied together near the top from which point a long piece of rope is suspended. The swing was created and a person would hang on to the rope to trick the god into believing they had been hanged. It is the reason the single-rope swing is known by the special name of lavqcep (pronounced la-cher). It means hanging by the hands.

Aqpoeq Miqyaer and the spirits were convinced the Akha had been punished and allowed them to resume their normal farming activities on the condition that the hanging must be repeated each year after the paddy rice seeds are sowed.

The Akha villagers take to the swing once a year to eliminate bad luck and welcome an abundant harvest and happy life.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Hill tribe hits a high point, A US grant will help an Akha community hang onto its traditions, 23/10/2010, Anurat Thepthong, link

Akha - hill tribe farmers known for their artistry, the remaining Akha people live in small villages in Yunnan, China (known as "Hani"), Laos, Burma and northern Thailand where they number around 80,000 people, they're villages are popular tourist destinations for "trekkers" (See Wikipedia)
Akha Swing Ceremony - the best known of all Akha festivals held in mid-August and September: "The annual ritual is performed when the rice and corn have matured and are almost ready for harvest, approximately two months before the harvest season. In essence, this is a sacred thanksgiving ritual and a form of ancestor worship performed as an expression of respect and gratitude to ancestors. Merry-making, feasting, singing and dancing continue throughout the four days and nights of the festival" (Source: TAT)
delegate - a person representing someone at a meeting (here: representing the US government)
reception - a formal party at which important people are welcomed or, in this case, congratulated งานตอบรับ
preserve - to take care of something (building, traditions, etc) to keep it in good condition and prevent it from being destroyed ทำให้คงอยู่,  รักษาให้คงเดิม, อนุรักษ์,  คุ้มครองป้องกัน, ปกป้อง
heritage - the art, literature, traditions and beliefs from the past that a society considers important มรดก
hang on to - keep, preserve, retain, don't lose เก็บไว้, รักษาไว้, สงวนไว้

animism (noun) - a religion or belief among some tribal people that all objects in nature and the universe have souls (See Wikipedia) ความเชื่อว่ามีวิญญาณในธรรมชาติและจักรวาล
animist (noun) - a person who believes in and practices some form of "animism" as a religion
grant - an amount of money given for some project (don't have to pay back, loans must be paid back)
community - local people, the people living in one local place or area ชุมชน
traditions - beliefs and ways of doing things (customs) that have existed for a long time
remote - far away, in distant place ไกล
ward off - to prevent something bad from harming by taking some action ป้องกัน, ขจัด
extinction - death of all living members of a group (of humans, animals or plants) การสูญพันธุ์
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
pilot project - a small test project to test an idea before starting a larger project
documentation - writing a description of something that exists, so people who come afterwards will know what it lookked like and how it works
literacy - the ability to read and write อ่านออกเขียนได้
training - to teach people how to do an activity or job การฝึกฝน

document - a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type เอกสาร
document - a piece of paper or a set of papers containing official information เอกสาร
annual - happening once a year ประจำปี
rituals - ceremony พิธีกรรม
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
genealogy - the history of one family over long periods of time, with each "generation" connected to following generations in the a large tree พงศาวลีวิทยา
oral - from or about the mouth, done through speech and talking
oral literature - literature that is spoken first, not written in a book
literature passed on orally - same as "oral literature"
primary - first and most important
common - done or shared by two or more people ที่ร่วมกัน
common - shared, used by many people
primary students - students in "primary school"
secondary students - students in "secondary school"

primary - first and most important
primary school - the first early stage of required education (compulsory education) from about age 5 to 12 (See Wikipedia)
secondary school - secondary education, the middle stage of schooling from about age 10 to age 18, after finishing some go to college or university (tertiary education) (See Wikipedia on secondary school and secondary education)
common - shared, when two groups do or use the same thing
orthography -
a way of writing a language

centrepiece - the most important part
pronounced - has the sound
honour - showing respect for a person or group, because of something they have done or achieved
sacrificed his life - died protecting, defending or trying to help orther people
catastrophic - a terrible disaster, very bad, extremely damaging เหตุร้ายกาจม ความหายนะม ให้ผลหายนะอย่างใหญ่หลวง
plague - some big widespread event harming many people (originally: a serious disease like the "bubonic plague" that spreads quickly and kills many people)
pests - insects or small animals which are harmful and annoying สัตว์ที่ทำลาย, สัตว์ที่รบกวน
spread - to gradually affect or cover a larger area or number of people แพร่กระจายไปทั่ว

(noun) - something that can make you sick or kill you if you eat or drink it ยาพิษ
poisonous (adjective) - containing poison ซึ่งเป็นพิษ
- a plant used to add flavour to food or as a medicine to cure disease สมุนไพร
lure - persuade someone to do something by making it look very attractive or by a trick หลอกล่อ (See glossary)
concoction - mixing things together in a new way to get something new (such as a new food, drink, meal, etc)
swarm - many things moving together in a very large group (example: insects flying together in a swarm)
vengeance (noun) - hurting or killing someone because they have done something bad to you
vengeful (adjective) - a person whose actions are driven by vengeance (wanting to hurt people who have hurt you)
vermin - small animals that cause damage or disease
- 1. the part of a person that continues to exist after death, 2. imaginary invisible creatures like ghosts with special powers
slaughter -
the killing of animals or people
survived - continued to live or exist รอดมาได้
survived the slaughter - was still alive after many people in a group were killed 
justice - when people are treated fairly and equally (See Wikipedia) ความยุติธรรม

punish (verb) - to do something bad to someone who has broken the law or the rules (in order to make them suffer and not do it again) ทำโทษ
punishment (noun) - โทษ
protest - a strong complaint or disagreement ประท้วง
erect - make stand up straight, put up, upright, vertical ซึ่งตั้งตรง
pole - a long stick, used for supporting or holding something up เสา
poles erected - raising poles up so that it stands up straight
base - a foundation, a strong bottom part of a house or other structure that the top part rests on top of
suspended - hanging แขวน
reason - an explanation of an event, why an event happened เหตุ ; เหตุผล ; สาเหตุ
convinced - certain; sure แน่ใจ, มั่นใจ
resume - to start something again after stopping temporarily กลับมาอีกครั้ง, ดำเนินต่อไปใหม่, กลับมาอีกครั้ง
condition - something that must be true or be done before another thing can happen เงื่อนไข
paddy - rice after it has been harvested from the field ข้าวเปลือก
sow - throw seeds down on field to plant crops
eliminate - to remove or get rid of completely กำจัดหรือขจัดให้หมดไป
abundant - large amounts, more than enough มากมาย
harvest - gather in ripe crops, gathering fully grown crops from the field เก็บเกี่ยว, การเก็บเกี่ยวผลผลิต

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