Stepping into the cool atmosphere of Kim Ngan Temple on Hang Bac
Street, Gemma Bone, a tourist from England, was amazed by an installation of
various hats made of dried leaves that covered the front yard and gate.
She was overwhelmed with the tranquil images of the Vietnamese countryside,
right in the heart of the busy Old Quarter.
"It's really beautiful," she told Viet Nam News, looking at green silk swathes
hanging down from the temple's ceiling, scattered with hats. "[The installation]
is highly skilled and perfect. I love the idea of combining traditional
[material] and modern [art] like this.
"The hanging silk seems to create a space that I want to go through," she said.
Bone was among hundreds of tourists, mostly foreigners, appreciating the ongoing
installation works of traditional handicraft products at four tourism venues in
the Old Quarter, namely Kim Ngan Temple on Hang Bac Street, Dong Lac Temple on
Hang Dao Street, Old House at No 87 Ma May Street, and the Old Quarter
Information Office at 28 Hang Buom Street.
"The programme aims to promote traditional handicrafts that used to exist inside
the Old Quarter a few centuries ago, and are still thriving in villages
surrounding the capital," said Chu Thuy Nga, an official from the Old Quarter
Nga said the programme was among regular cultural activities celebrating
traditional cultures throughout the year in the Old Quarter area.
This time, conical hats, bamboo fans, traditional musical instruments and wooden
drums are the centrepieces of northern handicrafts.
"We have tried our best to invite local artisans to come here to demonstrate
their crafts to tourists," Nga said. "Except one artisan from Dao Xa traditional
musical instrument village who cannot attend due to bad health, the other three
artisans we invited from the typical handicraft villages of Chi Le (conical
hat), Chang Son (bamboo fan) in former Ha Tay province (now part of Ha Noi), and
Doi Tam (drum) in Ha Nam Province are here to make the installation vivid."
According to artisan Vu Thi Thong, 76, who has made conical hats since she was
seven, all of her three sons and their families are following in her footsteps,
earning a living from making hats from dried plants.
"Although few city dwellers wear conical hats, people in rural areas still wear
the traditional products which are waterproof and protect people from the sun,"
she said. "We make a living from the hats, which can be bought as special gifts
to foreigners and for export."
Artist Nguyen Manh Duc, who is in charge of the installation works, said a team
of four artists were invited to join the programme, who then travelled to the
villages to choose the materials and meet with artisans.
They then created their installation works in keeping with the aesthetics of the
old temples and architecture around them.
Each of the artists found a different way to "conquer" the creative atmosphere,
the key to which was the acting artisans, Duc said.
For example, Nguyen Hong Hai, who has created works based on conical hats, was
inspired by local markets at Chi Le Village.
He set up a market scene with women wearing conical hats and ao toi (rain coats
made of dried leaves).
The whole market space was covered with long green silk cloth and the flat hats
of old Kinh Bac people. The creative ceiling brings a feeling of being
protected, like the feeling people have when they wear the hats.
Nguyen Huy An, who worked with bamboo fans, made an arch from bamboo fans, like
that of an old village gate at Dong Lac Temple.
Nga said after the exhibitions closed at the end of this month, the venues would
be used to display folk toys on the occasion of Mid Autumn Festival for
children, and other handicrafts such as jewellery making from Chau Khe Village
in Hai Duong Province or Dinh Cong Village of Ha Noi, where many of today's
residents on Hang Bac Street come from.
The venues are among the most popular destinations for tourists in the Old
Quarter, which welcomes around 200 visitors per day in peak seasons (March-April
and September-October), according to statistics from the department.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News