by Xuan Hiep
|Insight: The Raglai Ethnic Cultural Festival – Ninh Thuan 2013 aims to honour the cultural values of Raglai ethnic community. — VNS Photo Xuan Hiep
NINH THUAN (VNS)— When a Raglai person dies, he or she does not go to heaven or, for that matter, hell.
The soul, it is hoped and prayed for, returns to the mountains and forests from whence it came.
This extraordinary close communion with nature permeates the lives of the Raglai people and is reflected in their customs, festivals, rituals and daily life activities.
Whether it is the rhythm played on their gongs, the moves they make in their dances, or the folk songs and epics they sing, the accent is on harmony with nature.
The biggest festival of the Raglai ethnic community is bo ma (leaving tomb), which is celebrated from the 11th month of the lunar year to the third month of the following year after the harvest.
The festival reflects the strong relationship between the living and the dead, and is a gesture of love from the former to the latter, so that the souls of the deceased can return to the mountains and forests that the people believe are their ancestors.
The myths, legends and other cultural facets of the Raglai, their daily life triumphs and struggles, as well as their proud history of patriotism and contributions to the nation's independence struggle are being celebrated at a cultural festival that opened on Friday in the central province of Ninh Thuan.
Held in the mountainous district of Bac Ai, more than 500 Raglai artisans, actors and musicians from four central and Central Highlands provinces participated in the festival.
The three-day Raglai Ethnic Cultural Festival – Ninh Thuan 2013, the first of its kind, was organised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ninh Thuan Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Also in attendance were 150 actors and actresses from the northern Viet Bac Folk Music Theatre and other theatres from the four provinces.
The festival had a broad range of cultural activities, including a fashion show that presented traditional costumes of the Raglai people, and a number of traditional folk games and competitions.
Also included in the event was a culinary contest, where contestants showed off their cooking and food presentation skills. Special dishes of the Raglai in each locality was introduced to exhibition visitors.
At the Bac Ai Traditional House, an exhibition displayed traditional costumes, musical instruments, farm tools, special products, traditional sculpture, and publications about the Raglai people.
A workshop brought together folk culture researchers, artists and village patriarchs to discuss ways to preserve and sustain the traditional values of Raglai culture.
Bo Thi Sanh, 66, a Raglai from Ninh Phuoc District, said she felt excited to join the festival, as this was an opportunity for her and other Raglai to meet and exchange information and culture with other groups of Vietnamese people.
"I am responsible for guiding the Raglai children to practise the dancing and singing performances for the opening ceremony.
"Prior to the festival, they were too shy to participate in such a significant event. But now they have become more confident and ready for the show," she said.
Cao Thi Phung, 24, a mixed Raglai and Kinh woman, said: "I'm particularly happy to join in the many folk games at the festival held here for the first time. It's crowded. I've never seen so many people like this before."
The festival also attracted many foreign visitors who joined in a tour to Bac Ai District.
The mountainous district of Bac Ai used to be a revolutionary base during the nation's wars for independence. It boasts stunningly beautiful landscapes as well as many historical sites, making it an attractive destination for both local and foreign visitors.
There are about 123,000 Raglai people in the country at present. They subsist on farming and live mostly in the provinces of Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, and Lam Dong. — VNS