Young painter works to inspire love for traditional arts among children

Saturday, 2017-11-25 12:49:31
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Painter Duong Hoang Linh poses for a photo with his student at Hi Hung creative space. (Photo: Hi Hung Creative Space)
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NDO – As a graduate of the Vietnam Fine Arts University, painter Duong Hoang Linh has a deep passion for the traditional arts of his Tay ethic group. In recent years, he has organised a number of activities targeting children in order to bring them closer to the traditional arts

Linh has recently established Hi Hung creative space in Hanoi, a cafeteria where children can learn about traditional Vietnamese values and cultural practices through folk games and activities. The space also hosts workshops for children and parents to join together in painting and making masks and lanterns.

With the aim of bringing joy to children and inspiring their love for the traditional arts and culture of their country, Hi Hung centre has attracted much interest and appreciation among parents.

In an interview with Nhan Dan Weekly, Linh shared his passion for traditional arts and his way to preserve the country’s folk culture.

Question: How did you develop an interest in the traditional cultural values of ethnic groups, particularly minority groups?

Painter Duong Hoang Linh: I am a Tay ethnic and I have to admit that I have not yet done anything considerable to preserve the culture of my ethnic group. After years of travelling everywhere and learning how to safeguard the cultural identities of other ethnic groups in different regions, I realised that what I can do to fulfil my dream is to share the cultural beauty of my ethnic group with others, particularly children. Then I started taking notes and recording folk games and paintings before sharing them with others in my own way.

I am happy that my efforts have gained positive results. My recent workshop on making traditional masks for the mid-autumn festival provided an interesting experience for children and their parents.

How have you featured the cultural identity of ethnic groups in your works?

By travelling and listening to people from ethnic minority groups in different regions, I believe that my paintings and sculptures feature their pure and authentic cultural identities. I paint what I like, using natural materials. I love the black colour from coal and brown from clay – I call them the colours of nature. I also make my own paper for painting and present them to my friends.

You learnt to make Do (poonah) paper by your self. How do you make it?

I spent three years working in a Do – Zo project, during which I had great time working with wonderful colleagues to seek ways to preserve the fascinating material of our ancestors. It was also the time when I returned to painting on Do paper and found that our Tay people also made the same kind of Do paper. It is called Duong paper.

It was challenging time because of the shortage of instructional documents and equipment. I had to conduct research and make my own experiments with help from locals. When you make paper manually, you must be patient and thoroughly know the steps to make it, particularly how to process raw materials.

Why do you target children in your projects?

The children that I have met bring me a fresh energy. I have a deep attachment to the past and my childhood. I want to paint with innocence in the way that children do.

Can you share with us what children can learn at your Hi Hung creative space?

Children know what they like, and I decided to inspire their interest by introducing them to folk games, telling them about the stories behind the games, as well as introducing them to traditional colours and folk paintings. I am also the story teller and guide for them.

At Hi Hung creative space, each workshop has the participation of from five to seven children. They are encouraged to ask questions on whatever they want and the instructor is not allowed to reject any questions from the children.

I take them to mountains and beaches to help them to discover and respect the differences between ethnic groups across Vietnam. I hope to inspire among them the pride of what our ancestors left for us, from the smallest things such as daily utensils like a basket or a conical hat. I want to tell them that each object is a story which their parents have not told them yet.

At your centre, children often have the opportunity to visit an ancient space such as temples and historical sites, play folk games, such as flying kites and mask making. Why do you choose to help children to access the arts in this manner?

I believe that each place children travel to and each local person they talk to will provide them with stories and knowledge. I think that the easiest way for children to remember is through toys, food and colours, so I decided to tell stories about the country’s traditions in that way.

Today, there are many arts centres staging traditional arts programmes which are so expensive that parents find it difficult for their children to gain access to the arts. What do you think about this?

It is clear that profit must be considered while doing business. However, for me, I don’t place profit first in running the Hi Hung centre. I just want to do what I want and make children happy. I simply wish to gain back the initial expense. If you take too many things into account, you will probably turn what you want into a product. And I don’t think that the past or childhood is a product for anyone to make profit from.

Thank you so much for your sharing!