Discovering the Arts of Vietnam
In a country like Vietnam where the culture is so diverse, art can be found in many shapes and forms. From museums and private art collections to the sounds of traditional music and other genres, there are plenty of opportunities to encounter or take part in art-related events and impromptu performances.
We often tell our clients that if you lose yourself in the back lanes and alleyways of cities like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, you’ll more often than not discover new places and experiences that involve some kind of artistic endeavour.
In fact, our Explore Hanoi Like a Local Signature Tour was a direct result of city exploration! Part of the tour even takes you walking along railway tracks to see some of the colourful and thought-provoking graffiti that adorns the walls in certain parts of the city, giving it a brighter visage. We managed to get some very cool photos of wall paintings and graffiti while putting this tour together!
One of the most fascinating things to do on this tour is to visit the houses of local artists, many of whom are only too ready to share their knowledge with us and our clients. Mr. Tran in Hanoi, for example, has a small studio in the Old Quarter where he practices the art of lacquer painting. Called sơn mài locally, lacquer painting has developed as a freestanding form in Vietnam, separate from the more traditional decoration of wooden objects.
Mr. Tran, a master of the art, is only too pleased to tell you about his trade and the kind of materials and tools needed. Lacquer painting is one of Vietnam’s signature arts, a national pride that can be found all over the country. A revival of the art has seen a new generation of lacquer painters emerge in Vietnam some of whom have gained international recognition for their work.
Another spectacular art form in Vietnam is water puppetry, a local tradition that dates back to the 11th century. Made out of wood and then lacquered, the puppets are connected to long bamboo rods under the water that are then operated by the puppeteers who stand behind a screen waist-deep in water. During a show the puppets appear to move over the surface of the water.
Performances center around a wide variety of subjects including everyday life, national heroes and popular folk legends. Each performance has a musical accompaniment including drums and pipes that provide the story’s dramatic background music. Singing often plays an important part in the story-telling too. Performances are usually held daily at city theaters and are a great way to learn about some of the traditional Vietnamese folk tales.
At Khiri Travel we love supporting local artists and so we were lucky to find Mr. Liem, a Hanoi artist who actually stages water puppet performances in his own home, a small house in the Old Quarter of the city. He has everything he needs for his performances including a specially made pond. Not only does he stage performances, he shares the history of water puppetry with his guests and even allows visitors to have a go at operating the puppets themselves.
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