Zehua, Miqyaiv Yang Lawgaw
interview as part of VIRTUAL BORDERS production conducted by Manu Luksch in Jinghong Dec1999, translated by Aju Jupoh.
Q: Please introduce yourself
My chinese name is Yang, but the Akha name is Miqyaiv.
In the radio station I am called Zehua.
But my family calles me Miqyaiv, because my body is big, and the meaning of the name is >big<. Thats why they call me Mipeh.
I can work in the radio station because I studied at school. Nowadays, people who didnt get education cannot work for the radio station or government.
I was studying until the age of16 or 17 years at school under the chinese sysem.
At the beginning I didnt study at a very high level at school. I graduated after only 12 years in school.
My knowledge was not enough, thats why I still continued studying little by little until now.
I studied in the teachers college how to teach students.
After I graduated I used to teach in school for 6 or 7 years.
I used to teach the students mathematics from primary class 6 to 7.
I taught many subjects like mathematics and singing.
After I taught a while, I applied for work at the radio station as the radio started to operate from Jinghong.
I have already worked at the radio station for the last 20 years.
The radio station was not started by me, also I am not the only one working there.
We are many people working together, not only Akha. I do like it, even though it was not always easy at the beginning.
Nobody there had studied, therefore I was the first Akha person who had studied to work on the radio programme. We develop day by day and focus on the future. If we dont do it, nobody will do it for us.
I love this job and i focus on what will be for use to the Akha people. That is why at work, my whole heart and thoughts are dedicated to the Akha people.
What I am doing... I have to select the news and summary of news, which I want to be in the radio programme. If I didnt put the news programme together, there would not be anything to air on radio.
After I am collecting all the news, I am choosing which ones to put on the programme the same day or the next day. The knowledge how to do this needs to be learned.
I am not only collecting the news, but often I need to have my own ideas of what the Akha people should get to know. I also have to present the summary of the news on the radio.
I am also learning by experience and so now I know already quite well how to collect the news. I can show it to the younger ones and I know which news is right and which one is wrong to choose.
The radio station in X-banna is very welknown by the Akha people and they can learn here about life and agriculture.
We have many things to develop for the Akha people. I think if we have not done a good job yet, the younger ones who are following can help the radio station to progress better.
Q: What are you working on?
I am now working on 3 issues:
Firstly, I am planning to develop the radio station which has to be run by the Akha people.
Secondly, I am trying to do television programmes in China.
Since 1981 we are trying to initiate television programmes. We think that TV programmes are also very important for the Akha people, of which the chinese people are saying >Tashui<
Now we are broadcasting on TV in Akha language.
The X-banna Akha-language radio station had started 19 years ago.
The third point I am working on is writing Akha script, how to write in Akha because the Akha people also needed a writing system.
The first one was radio, the second one TV and the third ones the writing script.
The writing script is not only important for the radio station but also important for the Akha people who cannot write and read.
We had been discussing the script issue with the professor in Kunming city. Then we had a meeting where our group was trying to work on the writing system. We came to some agreements about what kind of script we will use.
Since 1981 we thought the writing script is very important. So we taught it by radio. That was the start of educational radio programmes for Akha people.
At the beginning we didnt have the skills to produce a curriculum. Then bi-linguistic professionals from Beijing came to give us ideas.
Miyeh: Curricula are the books for teaching, for studying to learn the ABC and to learn how to make books, teaching books.
From that base, we are trying to develop the teaching books and then were also trying to develop educational radio programmes to let the Akha people understand the script.
We have been trying to develop the writing script for 4 or 5 years. We had many meetings over that period.
After we had done the educational radio programmes about the script, we monitored of how much service it was to the Akha people and how many Akha people could write.
Since we started to use the writing script there are many things we have to share and many things we have to develop.
But before we start using the writing script for the Akha people but not only for Akha. They had been studied by the Hani [...] area since 1957
Among the Hani in the Hon Che area and the Akha from the X-banna area the dialect of speaking is different but we thought we should use the same script of writing.
Thats why in 1993, we set up another meeting to discuss that the Akha and Hani should use the same script.
From 1991-1996 I used to be a school teacher.
Sometimes I used to teach the teachers [...], in the area of the Akha people. I trained the teachers how to use the Akha script and how to teach it to the students there.
I set up another special class in the area of the Akha people for those who were really interested in the writing script.
In the year of 1996 I set up a training programme for the teachers who are teaching in the Akha areas of X-banna. The reason was because the teachers have to know the writing script in Akha language.
I have done a lot in the X-banna area, therefore I believe that many Akha of here will be able to write and read in Akha script.
In the year of 1995 we produced another teaching book of the Akha language.
Even though the books look too small, they are very important and very useful for the Akha people, because we have to develop the use of writing script. Thats why I think thats very important.
Let me summarize my work in three points as mentioned earlier: one is work at the Jinghong radio station, the second one is working on the television programme in Akha language, and the third one is trying to develop the writing script.
Q: Tell us about Akha language radio broadcasts
The radio programme started in the year 1981. At the beginning of the Akha language broadcasts, we just broadcasted the news, but after a while we also did the weather news.
By request of the Akha people we had to add in the programme which day it is in Akha calender.
Not only this, we developed step by step. We started putting agricultural information like which kind of plant and products are good to plant at which time of the year. We put songs in the programme which was also requested by the Akha people. Thats how we developed step by step.
The broadcasting is very useful, radio as well as TV, because the Akha people can listen and watch and follow the changes of daily life. They can lead a better life through the experience they get from radio and TV.
The usefullness of radio and tv programmes is that many people who cannot get newspapers or who cannot read can listen to radio and TV programmes and learn about the worldwide news which we are broadcasting daily.
Thats why the Akha people can follow the news from all over the world and what happens in the world, and thats why I think it is very good to broadcast in our language on radio and TV.
(Q: Advantage of radio broadcasts )
When I started broadcasting on radio, I started with >Ladies and Gentlemen and all the Akha people who are listening to the radio programme, my name is Miyeh.<
Then I asked the people wherever I went what they thought of my work as radio presenter. Many people said that I talk very nicely, and when I introduced myself to those who I met telling that my name is Miyeh, they would answer >Oh, I have heard your name already for such a long time!<, therefore many people know my name.
In 1996 I attended the Hani-Akha conference in Thailand. When I came back from Thailand I broadcasted about it and some people were confused about the news. Some asked me about what I had said about the conference in Thailand and I had to make it clearer again.
Radio as well as TV is very useful to the Akha people.
If splitting up in percentages, the radio programme in X-banna can reach 90% and the TV programme can reach more than 30% of the Akha people.
When I was in Thailand some Akha villagers told me that they can also receive our Akha language programme, but I dont remember the name of this village.
Many Akha people are living at the border of China and Burma. When I went to Burma, the Akha people also told me that they are listening to radio programmes from China.
I have been in [...] city in Burma once and met many Akha people there. I had once broadcasted about the work of one very famous Chinese man. The Akha said >Oh you are the one who tells the story about the famous people<. Thats why I know that many Akha in Burma are listening to the Akha language programme from China.
In my opinion, television cannot replace radio. Why? TV cannot reach the remote areas. It reaches maximum 90%, so there is still 10% left. One reason why it cannot reach many areas is because there is no electricity. Without electricity, it is impossible to watch TV. In China, there are still many villages without electricity.
On the radio, one can make announcements more quickly. The production of radio programmes is much easier than the of television programmes. Therefore, the update of news on radio is more immediate than on TV.
If comparing television with radio, radio is much cheaper. Many poor people can anly afford radio sets, they cannot afford to buy a TV set.
Regarding the radio programme: We have much time allotted for our broadcasts. In the morning one hour, in the afternoon one hour and in the evening two hours. Thats plenty of time for the radio programmes in Akha language.
Both, radio and TV programmes are useful to the people. Broadcasts are not only in Akha language. There are many other different groups who broadcast during the day. We are broadcasting in Akha language everyday, 7 days a week. Anyway, its useful for the people.
In the radio station we have 3 different groups: Akha, Dai, and Chinese. Each group has its own departments. In the chinese departments the chinese group is working, in the Dai departments the Dai group is working and in the Akha departments the Akha group is working.
In the radio station there is just one director. Each group has to develop their own programmes. The chinese group also has to develop their method of how to make programmes, just like the Akha group does. We have to know the chinese language and the Akha language and script. Not only this, we also have to know the Akha culture deeply before working on broadcasts.
There are broadcasts in 3 languages: Dai for the Dai people, chinese for the chinese people. The Akha can listen to the chinese language programmes. Those who do not understand chinese, can listen to the Akha language programmes.
I think that many people appreciate the broadcasting in their own language. [...]
The chinese people call us a minority, because our population is small in comparision to the Chinese. The Lahu, Akha or Dai are a very small population if compared to the chinese people. Anyway, they are not looking down to the mountain people and they give us a chance to work on every level here in China.
Once a year we are making a report about our method of making broadcasts and we have to present it to the University of Kunming. If it is well written, we can get a certificate from the university. You see, even if we are a minority, nobody looks down to us and as a minority we are well developed.
Although, we create radio and television programmes, we do not have newspapers yet. In the future I think if we can write newspaper it will be very useful.
Why we dont have papers? This region is called the Dai region, because there are more Dai than Akha people. 5 or 6 years ago we proposed that we would also like to make records on paper.
In order to write down on paper, we need someone who has the knowledge how to write. It requires someone who knows how to write. These days we have a lack of staff that knows how to write.
Actually the government allows us to use our script, I mention it because we dont have enough staff for writing on a book therefore we cannot make books these days yet.
Q: How do you define Akha identity?
[...] Without talking to anybody, I can recognise an Akha village from the style of its houses.
27:18:05 When we arrive in the village we can see lots of fruit trees surrounding the village. Another way to recognise an Akha village is to have a look at the village gate, because the Akha village gate is different from other groups.
We can also recognise it from the water source. If we are within the village, we can see the buffaloe horns on the top of the roof, which are put there after an Akha house is built. Thats why an Akha village is easy to recognise.
Looking at our clothing: most of the younger generation do not wear the tradionial costumes very often. The elder ones are still wearing them. So, we can recognise them as Akha.
Another point is the language. If they speak in Akha language it is easy to recognise that it is Akha.
We can also recognise Akha by counting the clan geneaology. Also, it can be seen from the baskets they carry as the Akha basket style is different from the other groups. And we can tell by the agricultural tools, which are different from those of the other groups.
When we live in the mountains we speak Akha only. If you are an Akha living in the city, you have to know other languages. Dai, Akha and Chinese people are living in the city, and Akha is not enough to communicate with others. You must know Chinese as well.
In the city, we cannot wear the Akha costume all the time. It is too complicated to be worn and not convenient, if you go somewhere else. Thats why we dont see many Akha people wearing the Akha costume in the city.
Anyhow, the Akha who are living in the city have an accent if they speak chinese, so we can recognise each other and then talk in Akha language.
The younger generation which grows up in the city can hardly be recognised by their accent. They speak perfectly chinese. If we know that they are Akha people then we should teach them not to forget the own language, and the parents should teach them to be proud of being Akha. We need to teach the younger generation to be proud that we are Akha.
It is a good thing to learn from other people. Those which are the good things we should keep and maintain. If we can maintain our own culture, that will be very good for the future.
The purpose of radio and TV programmes is to give knowledge to the people.
During the radio programme we have to use the Akha language. Also on TV we should use Akha language. In the future we will make books in Akha language. I think its useful to teach agriculture or other things to have a better life.
Since we are Akha people, there are many good things in life, but also lots of things we still have to develop. We should look at other groups to learn from as well.
If one day we can make books and broadcasts, it will be even better. If we learn one new thing each day it is 10 little things every day. Thats why it will be useful when we can broadcast on TV and make books for the people.
Many things are useful to the Akha people, thats why I pay attention to the radio station and why I like working here.
Q: Do you use computers?
I cannot say it in another language, but in chinese it is >tano< which means >computer<. I see that many people can use computers. Then I feel jealous of those who can use computers.
Computers work very fast and they can do various things. That is why I would be interested to learn computing. I even bought a manual on how to use a computer, which I am still reading.
I even read a book on how to use a computer, however I cannot understand it yet. Perhaps, I am not bright enough to use a computer. Another point is that I read about it, but, I dont have a computer to use.
The computer can do things very fast. Although, I cannot use it now, I hope that in the future I will.
When using a computer, it is very fast to maintain documents. Also, if we pick out mistakes it is faster than by hand. Using computers is better than using the typewriter, because, you do not waste your time exchanging information.
I would like to have a computer terminal. At the moment I do not have any. The reason for this is that I have two children to take care of. So, as a result of this, I do not have enough money left to buy one, but I really want one.
I hope that I can get many things done with the computer.
Q: How did this conference come together?
The first Akha-Hani culture conference was set up in Hon que area. The second time it was organised in Thailand. Thirdly, it is taking place now in Chonque area. That is why we all have a chance to meet again.
In 1996 in Thailand, a decision was made, that, the 3rd conference will be held here, in China. Thats why we submitted a proposal to the governor. Then, they allowed us to have a conference in this town.
We have to ask authorisation by the government step by step. Firstly, we had to ask the head of X-banna province. Then we had to ask in Kunming. After this, we had to propose to Beijing. It took one year to get authorization to hold the third Akha-Hani conference here in China. After we got the authorization, we came back to Jinghong, and held a meeting. We made decisions about what kind of topics we should discuss and who the participants should be. Then we formed different groups to take care of different subjects. We have been heavily involved in this conference since 1999.
Q: why is such a meeting useful?
Many of the senior positions of X-banna were attending the first day of the conference, where they saw us and the conference and appreciated it. Then they helped us a lot.
The Akha culture conference is very useful for the Akha people. This way we can learn about the situation of our culture in the different countries. Many Akha researchers from abroad were joining the meeting, not only Akha people. That is why I thought it was very useful. After the conference we are going to broadcast on the radio to let the Akha people know about the situation.
It is useful for the next generation as well. If in the future the Akha people will not know their oral culture, they can look at the papers which we are gathering from the conference. This way the next generation will be able to see that the Akha people used to have a rich culture.
At the conference we discuss what are the good points of our culture to develop further, and what are the bad points which we should adapt. If we did not have this type of conference, we wouldnt be able to recognise what to develop or adapt, therefore this conference is very useful.
In the conference we are gathering the knowledge about Akha culture. Not only by Akha but also by foreign researchers of Akha culture. We can share the knowledge, what they have learned. We also need to travel. Sometimes we have to go to Thailand or to Burma, and those who are travelling and seeing different things can expand their knowledge.
We are finding out about the situation in the different home countries of the Akha. Then we are reporting about it on the radio programmes, as well how to improve their lives. Thats why it is very useful to have the conference.
This 3rd Akha-Hani conference had a participation of more than180 people .
The participants come from 15 different countries. There are Akha people from 3 different countries, from Thailand, Burma and China.
The Akha people from Laos and Vietnam couldnt come, because the communication during the preparation was not sufficient. I feel very pitiful, that, those people could not attend the conference. I hope that in the future they will be able to come.
There are more people interested in Akha culture, apart from the 5 countries the Akha people live in. That is why the participation is more than 180 people. Also at the conference we have different situations: some groups are reading from paper, some are speaking freely.
The amount of people who wrote down their presentation on paper is103 persons. If we are reading all those103 papers, we can learn many things. I think it is brilliant to write down on paper and to share the experience by reading each others research. This way we can get to know the different things happening in the different countries.