Vietnam devises strategies to revive dying art form
Visitors to Hanoi can now see 12 genres of Vietnamese folk paintings at an exhibition at the Hanoi Museum. More than 200 works from wellknown painting genres such as Dong Ho, Hang Trong and Kim Hoang are on show.
The exhibition, which opened on Friday, aims to showcase Vietnamese traditional folk paintings to domestic and foreign visitors, the organizers say.
According to Nguyen Tien Da, director of the Hanoi Museum, traditional folk paintings display a community’s unique cultural characteristics.
Speaking of the challenges facing the art form, he says: “The question of how to combine traditional and modern art needs thorough consideration and investment in order to nurture awareness among the young about the preservation of ancestral cultural features.”
Truong Quoc Binh, former director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, says as the nation’s socio-economic situation changes, many types of traditional folk paintings are on the verge of disappearing.
The demand for traditional folk paintings has also decreased, which has forced craft villages and artisans to seek other jobs, says Binh.
For instance, Dong Ho paintings were once among the “must-have” things during the lunar New Year festival, or Tet as it is locally known, for worship or decoration purposes.
People then displayed Dong Ho folk paintings in their houses throughout the year and replaced them with new ones every Tet. But the tradition has faded away with time.
Making the same point, Nguyen Dang Che, an artisan from Dong Ho village in Vietnam’s northern Bac Ninh province, says: “Before 1945, my village had 17 clans engaged in producing Dong Ho paintings. But due to changing economic conditions, Dong Ho paintings have gradually lost their position.
“Most families in the village have now turned to making votive paper to earn a living. Now there are only two clans in Dong Ho village who still follow the tradition of producing Dong Ho paintings,” says Che.
Meanwhile, Kim Hoang paintings, which were also popular items during Tet in Vietnam, can now be found only in museums or fine art galleries.
It is said that a flood in 1915 destroyed almost all the original woodblocks in the Kim Hoang village. Now, experts are seeking ways to restore this painting genre, which originated in the late 18th century.
Speaking about how the state is helping preserve and revive these traditions, Binh says: “Vietnam has put significant efforts into preserving traditional folk paintings, including building a list of its national intangible cultural heritage and restoring and developing traditional craft villages.
“But, the country is facing numerous difficulties in reviving traditional craft villages. There are difficulties in sourcing materials, supporting artisans, as well as enabling the passing down of the tradition to younger generations.”
Even the Vietnamese people are sad at the dying of the art.
Pham Cong, an 80-year-old resident of Hanoi who visited the exhibition, says: “It is a pity that many of Vietnam’s traditional folk painting genres have disappeared. The new generation should learn about and develop the country’s traditional painting genres.”
The exhibition will run for six months.
An artisan makes a Hang Trong painting at the ongoing exhibition at the Hanoi Museum.