Exhibition showcases Vietnamese family meals

August 17, 2022 - 08:54
The display, at Hà Nội's Culture and Art Centres on Hàng Buồm Street, features almost 30 paintings of different types of food.
Visitors at the Về Nhà Ăn Cơm exhibition. — Photo courtesy of artist Nguyễn Thế Sơn

HÀ NỘI — These paintings of food are so realistic, you almost want to take a bite.

They form part of an exhibition by young Vietnamese artists that have painted their memories of family meals.

The display, at Hà Nội's Culture and Art Centres on Hàng Buồm Street, features almost 30 paintings of different types of food.

Entitled Về Nhà Ăn Cơm (Go Home For Meal), the exhibition is jointly organised by Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Việt Nam.

As the theme of United Nations' International Youth Day 2022 is “Intergenerational solidarity,” aiming for a cohesive society where everyone works together towards sustainable development goals, Về Nhà Ăn Cơm explores the concept of “family meals” through the eyes of youth as its guiding concept.

Curator Giang Kawako said: “Về nhà ăn cơm is a common Vietnamese phrase to remind people to come back home and share a meal with their family.

"It means a reason to decline an unwanted invitation; an invitation for someone that you would like to cook for them; and an endearing way for your family members/loved ones to show that they care about you (and your well-being).”

In Vietnamese culture, having a meal together is a daily family activity. A home dining table serves as a "touching point" where family members come together, interact with one another, share thoughts or simply have a conversation. A home meal, therefore, is remembered for both connecting moments and conflicts between different generations.

The artworks, created from various materials, not only showcase the food shared on the dining table but also about the stories behind these dishes from the perspectives of young artists.

Giang added: “We kindly invite you to immerse in the stories of Về Nhà Ăn Cơm as a gentle reminder and endearing common phrase in Việt Nam – and engage in emerging conversations from these stories. We also hope you will share the stories between different generations in your own family, and more importantly, appreciate your moment(s) of Về Nhà Ăn Cơm.”

The exhibition is divided into two sections including dishes and food trays. In the first section, visitors can see simple and familiar dishes but that contain emotional stories. Each of them manifests the love of parents for their children, for example, it could be porridge cooked by dad when his child gets sick or braised fish made by mother sent to children studying far from home.

Other painting might be the artists’ memoirs and the messages about family they wish to convey, like Vùi Na Trong Thùng Gạo (Burying Custard Apples in a Rice Bucket) by Phong Nguyễn.

Vùi Na Trong Thùng Gạo (Burying Custard Apples in a Rice Bucket) by Phong Nguyễn. — Photo courtesy of the artist

Phong said: “Of all the fruits, I like the sweetness of custard apple the most, and when I was a kid, whenever my mother bought custard apples from the market, I would wait for my mother to check if the custard apple was ripe enough.

"My mother often buried custard apples in a bucket of rice so that it would ripen quickly. So for me, the moment of waiting for custard apples to ripe is both long and memorable.

“In this work, I also show three custard apples in three periods: young, just ripe and old, representing three generations in each Vietnamese family. Each generation has its own vitality but is connected to each other in family life, especially via gathering during meals,” he added.

The second section of Về Nhà Ăn Cơm features paintings of the food trays, which express the emotions, warmth and natural bonds among family members. For example, Tết Của Người Hà Nội (Hanoians’ Lunar New Year Festivals) by painter Lê Phương Thảo aims to remind viewers, especially those who are living far away from home, of the cosy moments of gathering around the food tray with other family members during Tết.

Tết Của Người Hà Nội (Hanoians’ Lunar New Year Festivals) by painter Lê Phương Thảo. — Photo courtesy of the artist

Về Nhà Ăn Cơm exhibition will conclude on August 18. Entrance is free. — VNS