Saturday, October 22 2016


Pint-sized painters carry on art tradition

Update: February, 09/2016 - 08:00
Iconic image: Children enjoy colouring pictures of a girl holding a duck, which is a traditional painting of Viet Nam. — Photo VNS Luong Thu Huong

With Tet approaching, more than 400 children are learning about traditional Vietnamese paintings and raising money for charity. Luong Thu Huong reports.

Dinh Thi Bang Linh was careful not to err while colouring a picture of a girl holding a duck, which is a traditional painting of Viet Nam.

Together with more than 400 children in the city, Linh, from the Doan Thi Diem Secondary School in Ha Noi, seemed interested in the activities she participated in for the Joining Children in Discovering Tet Traditional Paintings project that recently took place at the Viet Nam Fine Arts Museum.

"I have been taught the basics of traditional paintings of Viet Nam, like the history of Dong Ho paintings. The project helped me understand more about the paintings and their meaning thanks to its various activities such as making paintings myself or making New Year cards and lucky money envelops," she excitedly says.

Step by step: A voluntary artist helps instruct children on how to make traditional paintings. — VNS Photo Luong Thu Huong

The project has followed the success of a similar project which took place last Mid-autumn festival, titled Joining Children in Getting Creative With Vietnamese Traditional Masks and Enjoying Mid-autumn Festival.

It is a joint production of various arts clubs in the city like Green Art, Rainbow Art, Vung's Friend Club, Creative Colour, and of art collectors such as Nguyen Thu Hoa.

Right from its first day, when it called for registrations, the project surprisingly received much attention from numerous children and parents who wished to participate in the event.

"I learned about the project via Facebook. My children are learning painting at the Children's Palace, so I think this project is a very interesting event to encourage them to learn not only about painting, but also Viet Nam's traditional arts," Do Giang Huong says. She had her two children join the project.

According to art critic Trang Thanh Hien, a representative of the organisers, the biggest aim of the project is to create a playground or an arts space that is dedicated to traditional values.

"The high registration proves the attractiveness of traditional values in modern society. Not only have the parents had their children join the project, but they have also created arts group to appeal for participation. We organisers feel very happy because our message and purpose have been shared and widely spread," Hien says.

Tet (Lunar New Year) paintings used to be an indispensable decoration for every Vietnamese family in the old days. Pictures of "Pigs' Family", "Flock of Chickens" or "The Wedding of the Mouse" could be found with any family whenever the festive season approached.

Each lively coloured painting contains its own meaning, reflecting different human characteristics as well as the people's aspiration, from the simple to the noble ones, especially the wish for a lucky, prosperous new year.

They might also illustrate a different outlook to life, as well as the quintessence in the lifestyle of the Vietnamese, which conveys numerous educational messages.

The popularity of beautifying houses with traditional paintings was so widespread that there were streets and villages nationwide dedicated to producing traditional paintings such as Hang Trong, Dong Ho, and Kim Hoang in the north, or Sinh in the centre of Viet Nam.

Proud artist: Finished pieces made by children in the Joining Children in Discovering Tet Traditional Paintings project are hung in the sunlight to dry before being sold. Proceeds will go to a charity fund to help poor children with art potential. — Photo courtesy of project organisers

Whenever Tet approached, all the villages would become so full of life trying to print the pictures, which would then travel all the way to bring a spring-like atmosphere in every family.

However, the recent dramatic modernisation in the lifestyle has led to many ups and downs, and even seen halts to some traditional cultural values.

Tet paintings have shared the same unfortunate plight. The habit of hanging Tet paintings in many Vietnamese families is gradually fading. Instead, they have been replaced by many modern pictures or luxurious decorations that might even be imported.

Artists in training: By making Tet paintings, the children get a better understanding of a unique folk art in their hometowns. — Photo VNS Luong Thu Huong.

However, the strong vitality of traditional cultures still keeps burning silently, keeping them from being lost. In recent years, many traditional cultural values that used to face the threat of being lost have gradually been brought back to life, including Tet paintings.

Project Joining Children in Discovering Tet Traditional Paintings is one of the efforts being made to assist in the return of Tet paintings. Within the project, art critic Hien, together with lecturers and students from the Viet Nam University of Fine Arts, accompanied the children in the journey of discovering traditional paintings via many interesting activities such as making paintings themselves or answering quizzes.

"We want to maintain traditional activities in modern life, especially nurture children's love for traditional culture," Hien says, adding that the project is expected to be held twice a year coinciding with traditional festivals like mid-autumn festival or Lunar New Year.

"By making Tet painting themselves, the children will get a better understanding about a unique folk art of their hometown."

Good luck symbol: Phu Quy, a traditional painting of Viet Nam, depicts a girl holding a duck. It represents the desire for prosperity and the ability to have many children. —Photo

The participation of graphic artists also offered a great experience to children to make modern products such as New Year greeting cards, lucky money envelops or paintings that are inspired from traditional values.

Within the framework of the project, Hien hosted a workshop on the meaning and values of Tet paintings, an integral part of Vietnamese life.

Not only does the project provide an interesting educational playground for the children, it also aims at a voluntary target, by calling for the contribution of the community. Part of the fee earned from selling tickets will help about 150 disadvantaged children in Yen Lac Commune in the mountainous northern province of Cao Bang to overcome a fierce winter and have a joyful New Year holiday.

The organisers also hosted the activity of selling books, traditional paintings created by the children, and works donated by artists to the project. The money will go towards funding the Cung Be Sang Tao (Joining Children in Getting Creative) scholarship which will be awarded to poor children with artistic potential or excellent academic performance.

This interesting event will continue to be held at 5 Dao Duy Tu Street, within the framework of the exhibition Net Xuan (Beauty of Spring) on February 21.

"While traditional values are struggling to find their own place, such artistic projects are considered one of the efforts by artists to bring them back to life and stay alive in the modern culture," Hien says. — VNS

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