La Hu is said to mean ‘as powerful as a tiger’ and, indeed, the tribe was known for being especially skilled at hunting tigers in the past. The La Hu have no written language and most of them do not speak Vietnamese, which led me to call for the help of a local interpreter. I learned that there is a La Hu legend that says that a group of scholars once wrote their ancient language on rice cakes but the language disappeared when the scholars became hungry and ate them!
The memory of my first encounter with this tribe is tinged with joy and pain. Joy because I had the chance to capture this portrait of Ly Ca Su, 91 years old at the time. Pain and disappointment because I had to shorten my stay among the La Hu after a stupid motorcycle accident that led to a sprained ankle. Coming home with no costume, immobilized for three weeks, and frustrated to have missed out on time I could have spent learning more about this ethnic group, I became obsessed with the desire to return. I was finally able to go back to visit Ly Ca Su again three years later. She gave me one of her costumes for the museum and I was able to finally take my time to learn more about the culture of this fascinating group.