|Caught on camera: The book features photos taken by French anthropologist Jacques Dournes, depicting the daily life of the Gia Rai ethnic group and the region's landscapes during the 1960s. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
by Bach Lien
HA NOI (VNS) — Although fifty five years have passed since renowned French anthropologist Jacques Dournes took pictures of the Gia Rai (Jrai) ethnic group in the Central Highlands, the author and his precious photos have not been forgotten.
Experts and the public gathered on Thursday in Ha Noi to discuss photos that were recently published in a new book titled Xu Jorai (Gia Rai Land).
The 92-page book features the author's original photo collection.
Jacques Dournes spent quarter of a century living in the Central Highlands from1946-70, during which time he collected information for his anthropological researches and took an important collection of pictures which are preserved today at the Missions Etrangeres de Paris (Paris Foreign Missions Society) in Paris.
Using a pot of glue, scissors, paper and a pen, he brought together the best of these photos in his book, which depict the Gia Rai group, the habitat and landscapes around him, along with local customs from 1950-60.
Andrew Hardy, director of the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) in Viet Nam, found the photos in Paris and brought them back to Ha Noi.
Experts at the conference agreed that the book was a precious work of ethnological research illustrated with photos and the life stories of the Gia Rai (Jrai) ethnic group living in the Central Highlands.
In the book, the author leads readers to a Gia Rai village in the 1960s. The road leading to the village through the forest. Once visitors enter the village, they can see familiar images of stilt houses with buffaloes roaming underneath. Then the local inhabitants and the elephants joyfully return home after a hard day. Through these photos, the author helps readers to penetrate the daily lives of these people and share their joy, sadness and thoughts on life.
The book has annotations written by Dournes that are comical and interesting and reflect the author's emotions at the time. Behind the photos, his passion and love for the land and simple ethnic people is evident.
Writer and researcher Nguyen Ngoc said that he was surprised to see how beautiful the Gia Rai people were in the 1960s.
"The women were beautiful and the men were virile. They had a cheerful nature. Now I see they no longer wish to live alongside nature, and they are less beautiful. I do not know why," he said.
With the book, Dournes also shows there is a strong link between the Gia Rai group in the Central Highlands and the Cham people living in the central coastal regions of Viet Nam.
"This is precious material for ethnologists to conduct future research," said Le Hong Ly, director of the Cultural Research Institute.
The photos published in the book are on display at l'Espace, the French Cultural Centre, at 24 Trang Tien until February 14.
The book, published by French School of Asian Studies, Nha Nam Publishing House and the World Publishing House, is available at Nha Nam Publishing House. — VNS