Sun, 23rd Jun 2024 08:05 (GMT +7)

Vietnamese traditional folk painting genre — Dong Ho needs preservation and promotion

Sunday, 19/05/2024 | 17:20:50 [GMT +7] A  A

Dong Ho Village (in Song Ho Ward, Thuan Thanh Town, Bac Ninh Province) used to be praised in poetry and records for its unique craft — hand-printed paintings on woodblocks. However, nowadays, this traditional profession is about to disappear due to financial burdens. To bring it back to its prime, many organisations and individuals in Bac Ninh have been taking practical actions.

At the Dong Ho Folk Painting Conservation Centre. (Photo: An Tran)

Artisan Nguyen Dang Che, born in Dong Ho Village, belongs to the 20th generation of the Nguyen Dang family to practice the Dong Ho painting craft. After over 60 dedicated years of collecting, conserving, and recreating old paintings as well as making new artwork, in April 2024, the Nguyen Dang artisan family officially expanded the Dong Ho painting showcase. This showroom displays approximately 400 wood prints including some which date back over 200 years.

“I am so glad that after 32 years of collecting materials and artifacts and accumulating resources, my family finally finished the showroom to introduce the history of our craft village, the Dong Ho painting genre, and especially our family’s artifacts and materials with the hope to bring Dong Ho art closer to the public,” said Meritorious Craftsman Nguyen Dang Che.

Since November 2023, the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Bac Ninh Province has organised 2 markets recreating the Dong Ho painting market. In such cultural spaces that recall Kinh Bac Village, not only can visitors admire Dong Ho paintings and buy them to bring home, but they also can gain a deeper insight into the traditional craft, from material preparation to the finishing steps.

The Provincial Centre for Monuments Conservation and Tourism Promotion also cooperated by signing contracts on developing local tourism and advertising Dong Ho folk paintings with several tourism companies in order to attract more visitors. These are effective actions of Bac Ninh in the conservation and development of Dong Ho folk painting against the risks of vanishing.

During its prime before 1944, there were 17 families engaged in making paintings. However, currently, there are only 3 families and 30 other individuals following this traditional profession. The rest mostly pursue making votive goods.

Delegates visit stalls at Dong Ho Painting Market. (Photo: Bao Bac Ninh)

In 2013, Dong Ho folk painting craft was recognised as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage. According to Dr. Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong, Director of the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, Dong Ho paintings retain the spirit of the Vietnamese people. Nowadays generations must keep in mind that if we cannot preserve this precious art genre, we are guilty of failing our ancestors. The Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts is striving to coordinate with Bac Ninh Province to complete relevant procedures with the hope that the Dong Ho folk painting craft profile will soon be submitted to UNESCO for consideration and recognition as an intangible cultural heritage that needs urgent protection.

In practice, it is impossible to revive Dong Ho folk painting craft overnight. With the aim of sustainable conservation, along with actions from the government, agencies, local authorities, and craftsmen, social activities such as preserving and recalling the Vietnamese traditional hobby of admiring paintings need to be fostered in order to bring the printed paintings on woodblocks of Dong Ho villagers closer to both local and foreign people.

Source: Nhan Dan