|Finishing touches: A painter makes last minute alterations to his work of art before it goes on display.
A traditional craft creates stable jobs for thousands of people in the Mekong Delta, helping many households escape hunger and poverty. Trong Trung
and Ha Nguyen
Emily White and her friends from Australia recently made a tour to the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta. They were particularly interested in visiting the craft village of Long Dien B in An Giang Province to enjoy glass painting.
Traveling to An Giang by An Hoa Ferry from the Long Xuyen City centre to Ong Chuong Islet then on to Cho Moi District you will arrive in Long Dien B where traditional glass painting has been handed down from generation to generation, according to artisan Le Thanh Hoa.
White's group visited a workshop run by Hoa who said the occupation was established in the 1950s and subsequently spread to Long Dien, Long Giang and Long Dien B in particular.
Hoa himself is the third generation of his family to paint glass, he said.
People in the delta's rural areas have a habit of using glass painting to worship at ancestral altars and decorate living rooms.
Hoa said artisans have to cut glass according to order then make silk-screen prints on the cut glass with Chinese ink and decorate the borders with patterns before applying colour.
He said after finishing a painting, a worker has to cover it with a wooden frame.
"In the past a sketch of the painting was often done by artisans, but since the silk-screen painting technique appeared two decades ago, it has helped painted work quicker and with more convenience."
For example, a painter could do many stages at the same time. He/she could finish 10 sets of glass paintings within 3-4 days, earning VND1.5-3 million a month, Hoa explained.
He said that the paintings have sold well in rural areas, but that traditional crafts lacked advertising and marketing policies for proper promotion purposes.
Many workshop owners, including Hoa, are looking towards Cambodia as a potential market with most Khmer people being Buddhist and fond of religious glass painting.
He showed White and her friends around his workshop, which includes several dozen workers aged 16 and up.
"The most difficult stage is painting colours and designs on the glass. It needs skill and care," he said.
White said she admired local artisans for their skills.
"It carries a special mark and characteristics of the Ong Chuong Islet, located near the Hau River."
Artisan Tran Ba Thuan or Tu Thuan, one of the leading glass painters in Long Dien B, said his village has more than 100 households involved in the business.
The themes of the paintings are based on a number of stories that include legends on Thich Ca Mau Ni (Buddha), Tam-Cam, Lam Sanh-Xuan Nuong, Thoai Khanh-Chau Tuan, Nhi Thap Tu Hieu and Pham Cong-Cuc Hoa. These tales educate and remind people to do good and live ethically.
Other products include landscape glass paintings and parallel sentences about the duty of a son/daughter towards their parents and ancestors.
Thuan said the traditional craft creates stable jobs for thousands of people, including many households who have escaped hunger and poverty.
Sau Duc, a father of three children working part-time at a glass painting workshop, said his children earn more than VND1 million per month each.
"The job is stable and the money they earn is much more compared with working in the field," said Sau, adding that apart from his children, many men returning from the army got involved in the profession, many even opening their own workshops and employ locals.
Duc said that in the past his six-member family had to face at least two or three months of hunger a year.
Thuan said glass paintings sold well not only among people in An Giang but also those from surrounding provinces such as Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, Vinh Long and Dong Thap.
He added that the traditional occupation still needed help from relevant State agencies towards development.
White said she would never forget the trip to the region and that she would invite her relatives to visit the delta to go fishing on the Hau River, enjoy different fruits and visit Long Dien B's glass painting artisans. — VNS