Viet Nam News
by Phước Bửu
Born with a strong desire to paint, Lê Trường Giang lost his chance to become an artist due to his disability resulted from a bomb explosion in a rural district in the central province of Quảng Bình. But today Giang stands strong for his art works made from rice.
Giang was born in 1980 with a body that was just like anyone else’s. He was healthy for nine years before bomb from the war left behind in his home village of Lệ Kỳ exploded and injured his backbone.
Following the accident, he had to make dozens of trips to hospitals over almost two decades. He was finally left with a very weak back and two tottering legs. He can now stand or lie on a bed but cannot sit straight or walk briskly.
On a thin wood panel, he draws out the design, then he picks each grain of rice to stick on the panel using glue, until rice covers the entire drawing, with different colours.
Giang says each painting takes him some time to complete, depending on his health and the complicatedness of patterns. “I usually get headaches and pains in my whole body. I am quite sensitive to the change of weather."
Normally, Giang takes a short break lying down on a bed then continues with his work, day after day.
His father Lê Hải Hưng says he cannot understand why Giang endures so much pain standing for such long hours. For most people living in the poor countryside and doing hard farming work, art is of no use as it does not fill their stomachs.
This, along with the deep concern for Giang’s health when he lived away from home, made Hưng and his wife stop their son from enrolling into a college of art in neighboring Huế City.
Despite missing the opportunity to get professional school training in art, Giang could not stop the growing love for art inside of him. He started learning sculpture seven years ago and carved rock statues for a year before he quit because lifting rocks was extremely painful.
“Moreover, carving on rock requires strong hits by the hammer using hands. Patterns on my works did not look very sharp since my hits with the hammer were light."
He then learnt to make paintings by cutting dry banana tree, an innovative technique developed by a local artist. Unfortunately, he could not continue this unique style because it was hard to find banana trees that were withered and had dried under normal conditions. Fresh banana tree is used to feed pigs and ducks locally so dry banana tree is rare.
In 2004, Giang insisted on a trip to learn techniques of making paintings with rice from an artist in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum.
“I told my parents that I want to live my life and that I don’t want to be treated as a disabled person anymore. Finally, they let me go for my first -ever trip alone,” Giang recalls.
He says that besides the desire for art, he wants to earn for his living. However, not many of his paintings have been sold. A hotel in Đồng Hới, the municipal city of the province, set the price higher to make its own profit from each painting, deterring buyers.
Last month, officials from the local Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park visited Giang and promised space to display his paintings in the park, which draws a lot of visitors, who come to see the works in the magnificent grottos.
Giang is hopeful. He continues to work on his rice paintings every day after taking care of the family cows early morning. His daily inspiration and joy comes from the neighbourhood children, who are the first to get a glimpse of his art work. VNS