Sunday, September 20 2020


Veteran photographer launches book on Central Highlands culture

Update: March, 27/2020 - 08:52


Cover of the photo book by photographer Trần Phong. Photo courtesy of Trần Phong

HÀ NỘI Photographer Trần Phong has released a new book entitled Tượng Gỗ Tây Nguyên (Wooden Statues in The Central Highlands of Việt Nam). 

The bilingual English – Vietnamese book is published by Thế Giới Publishing House with 256 pages and about 300 photos to feature the deep and brilliant beauty in the cultural flow of the ethnic groups in the Central Highlands.

"I took the photos in the book in 1986 and many years later," said the veteran photographer. 

"I selected more than 300 photos from about 1,000 photos that I shot of wooden statues, charnel-houses and activities related to the funerary customs mainly in Jarai and Ba Na groups in Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces. I want to print these photos to preserve and promote traditional culture."


A wooden statue entitled Người Ôm Mặt (Man Holds Face) 

Wooden statues in the Central Highlands are unique sculptures of Việt Nam, according to the preface by Phong. "Today, going to the villages in the Central Highlands we no longer have the opportunity to see the wooden statues with artistic value like many years ago. The charnel-house and the statues have been modernised with cement and steel roofs. Very few elderly artisans are left in the area and the wooden statues gradually disappear in modern life."

In the photos, the cultures of the two largest ethnic groups in Trường Sơn Đông (eastern Trường Sơn Range) becomes vivid featuring aspects of the Central Highlands, according to the foreword by Associate Professor Ngô Văn Doanh. 

"In the Central Highlands, the charnel-house is a unique location, combining different arts such as architecture, sculpture, painting, knitting and decoration. All elements make the charnel-house unique."

Funerals are one of the most important ceremonies for many ethnic groups in Việt Nam’s central highland region.


A photo of a wooden statue featuring a mother holding a child. 

During his 30-year career, Phong has won hundred awards at home and around the world. He is a member of Việt Nam Association Photography Association's Art Council. 

He published two books entitled Điêu Khắc Gỗ Dân Gian Jarai, Ba Na (Folk Wood Engraving of Jarai and Ba Na Groups) in 1995 and Lễ Hội Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands Festival) in 2008.   

The book costs VNĐ360,000 (US$15.2). In Hà Nội it can be purchased at Book Store 30 Hàn Thuyên Street (0243.8246272); National Museum of History (0988727263) and Quỳnh Dung bookstore, 2F Quang Trung Street (0913063005). VNS

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