Vietnamese puppets land in Washington

Update: June, 15/2007 - 00:00

Vietnamese puppets land in Washington


Puppet on a rod: Chu Luong’s puppets are set to be showcased in Washington DC at a mammoth exhibition exploring the Vietnamese wet rice civilisation. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

Master Vietnamese puppeteer Chu Luong has hauled 700 of his hand carved water puppets to the US for a mammoth exhibition scheduled to open next Wednesday in Washington DC.

The show, which will focus on rice cultivation, will pack the prestigious Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Centre. It is scheduled to run through June 24.

It will mark a US tour by President Nguyen Minh Triet, the first Vietnamese president to visit America since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1995. The show will feature Chu Luong as the main manipulator of a host of puppets who will bring to the US an original installation entitled Nhan Gian (The Living Earth), which was held to glowing reviews in Ha Noi in March.

The intricate puppets are mostly farmers and designed to capture the lively spirit of rural Viet Nam.

"I hope audiences will understand the stories that we want to tell them. The stories are about the purity, the optimism and the tolerance of Vietnamese people," he said.

Those themes are demonstrated in everyday scenes of Viet Nam, such as festivals, fishing, and prayer, he said.

Luong, writer Nguyen Quang Thieu and film director Luong Tu Duc spent April in the US with around 200 puppets. There, they talked about the history and the development of Vietnamese water puppetry.

"American audiences were really interested in Vietnamese folklore. I played the Mong flute and Thieu played the dan bau (monochord). Many told us that they were captivated by the pure sounds," Luong said.

Luong’s puppets will be supported by an exhibition of black-and-white photos of Viet Nam News photographer Viet Thanh, and freelance Hoai Linh.

"Wet rice civilisation was born from the effort of every Vietnamese person, but it remains a strange dish for foreigners," said Nguyen A Phi, the exhibit’s curator and driving force behind The World and Viet Nam Report newspaper. "I think we should seduce foreigners with more traditional and simple things."

The presence of the three artists at the exhibit is expected to attract many visitors. "The works might become soulless without the presence of their authors," said Phi. — VNS