Viet Nam News
Take a look: Visitors at the exhibition Evolution: Torres Strait Masks. — VNS Photo Minh Thu
HÀ NỘI — Something colourful, something weird, something scary: This is how visitors often choose to describe the 13 beautifully decorated masks from the Torres Strait on display in the exhibition “Evolution: Torres Strait Masks”, which introduces the masks in digital format and opened on Friday at the Việt Nam Museum of Ethnology in Hà Nội.
While the opening coincides with International Museum Day 2018, the exhibition contributes to the celebrations of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Việt Nam and showcases Australia’s unique indigenous culture.
The Torres Strait is a network of islands connecting Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Traditionally, ancestors crafted the masks using materials native to the region and from the sea, such as Koerar turtle shell, fine rope fibres and wild bees wax.
While rooted in ancient spirituality, today masks and mask making are expressions of artistic and cultural revival, reflecting Torres Strait Islanders’ oldest and most vibrant rituals. These masks also bridge the gap between ancient Torres Strait traditions by connecting the next generation to their culture and passing down ancient knowledge.
This international travelling exhibition was developed by Gab Titui Cultural Centre and is presented in partnership with the National Museum of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Animalistic: The name of this mask means “that of a crocodile totem”. The head of the crocodile depicts the main totem of the Koey Buway tribe, normally comprised of warriors. — VNS Photo Minh Thu
Australian Ambassador Craig Chittick said he was very pleased to present Torres Strait masks for the first time in Việt Nam because they represent a very important part of Australia’s diverse culture, and the exhibit can enhance the people-to-people links between the two countries.
“The Torres Strait islanders draw inspiration and materials for the mask from the sea. These masks are striking objects of ritual and historical significance. Through the masks, the people pass on their knowledge and tradition to the next generation.”
Võ Quang Trọng, director of the Việt Nam Museum of Ethnology, said the exhibition also introduced some stunning images of the Torres Strait, helping visitors discover more of the amazing natural scenery of the culture’s creators.
“The Việt Nam Museum of Ethnology is very proud to host this wonderful exhibition which complements the 2018 International Museum Day’s theme ’Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics’,” he said.
“Digital displays of artefacts like this exhibition create more chances for Vietnamese people to enjoy the cultural masterpieces of the world.”
“Hopefully this artistic creation will bring to the public a lot of interesting emotions.”
The exhibition also offers Cracks in the Mask, the first documentary ever made about Torres Strait Islander’s culture, history and their deeply personal connection to these ancient works of art.
The exhibition will run until July 18. — VNS