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Are VN handicrafts losing their soul?

Update: October, 29/2014 - 08:52
Cultural danger: Visitors study ceramic vases at Van Lang University. Experts say handicraft items made in Viet Nam predominantly feature styles from Western countries, China, South Korea and Japan. — VNS Photo Van Dat

HCM CITY (VNS) — Local experts in fine arts and culture are concerned about the preservation of Vietnamese cultural identity in handicrafts and applied arts in the era of globalisation.

Participants at a two-day workshop on the applied arts and Vietnamese cultural identities held yesterday at Van Lang University agreed that patterns on handicrafts made in Viet Nam predominantly featured styles from Western countries and China, South Korea and Japan.

Nguyen Dung, principal of the university, agreed with Meritorious Teacher and Artist Huynh Van Muoi that educational efforts were needed to preserve Vietnamese identity that was being lost.

Muoi, who is head of the applied arts faculty at HCM City University of Fine Arts, said the country had faced significant foreign influences since opening up 30 years ago.

"Chinese culture has had a lot of influence in fine arts in recent years. The situation is alarming," he said.

Phan Quan Dung, head of Van Lang University's Industrial Arts Faculty, explained to participants at the workshop that the degeneration of Vietnamese cultural identity in handicrafts and artworks was the consequence of 1,000 years of Chinese domination, 100 years of colonisation by France and 30 years of occupation in the south by the US.

Dung cited Art Critic and Culture Researcher Phan Cam Thuong as saying that China has published books containing local patterns that are used by their artisans.

In Viet Nam, because there is no similar collection of Vietnamese patterns in books, local artisans use Chinese patterns.

Dung said: "This proves we don't have a long-term and systematic strategy to preserve traditional culture. Viet Nam is in the process of global integration which brings many benefits and challenges."

He said he was concerned that the IT-savvy younger generation preferred Korean culture.

During the meeting, Art Critic and Culture Researcher Phan Cam Thuong said the Bat Trang Pottery Village had been influenced by foreigners over 700 years, including Westerners.

Thuong said that imported materials had contributed to the degeneration of Vietnamese identity in its handicrafts and applied arts. — VNS

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