Colourful art by children from the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang is on display at an exhibition in the capital.
The exhibition is the result of a charity art project initiated by Taiwanese student Kuo Yen Wei, who is pursuing his PhD degree in Vietnamese Studies at Ha Noi National University.
The idea for the project came to Wei in 2013, when he travelled to Ha Giang to research the culture in the remote mountainous area.
“During that trip I realised that local ethnic people maintained their traditional customs very well. However, many people still have to struggle for their daily life and they ignore the importance of preserving tradition. Moreover, the modern world is encroaching on their traditional way of life, especially affecting children, who will have to deal with this more and more as they grow up,” Wei said.
He also noticed that most of the children displayed a lack of self-confidence.
He said: “They reject their ethnic cultural identity and many of them even do not use their own ethnic language.”
Wei, who is also an art curator, and his fellow travellers decided to develop a fine art teaching programme that would raise the cultural awareness of children in Ha Giang and help them build self-esteem.
The project kicked off in July at three schools in Ha Giang’s Quan Ba District.
Three hundred children aged 8-11 attended classes taught by professional artists and participated in other traditional activities like paper folding and folk games.
They also learned more about their ethnic culture and origin through storytelling sessions by village elders.
“We want to encourage the children to expose their natural personality through art. They can draw whatever they think about: family, village, their future dreams,” said painter Phan Thong Nguyen, one of the volunteer lecturers.
“We tried our best to turn the class into a place where the children could play or do creative things.”
The volunteer lecturers and project coordinators also visited the houses of underprivileged pupils and offered them practical gifts.
Student Phan Thi Mai Quyen came to Ha Noi for the first time to attend the exhibition opening on Saturday, wearing her traditional Pu Y dress.
“My friends and I were given a box of coloured crayons. The tutors taught us to draw moving objects,” she said.
Her classmate Nguyen Thi Minh Thu said she cancelled a trip to visit her grandparents to join the art class.
Visitor Tran Quang Minh said he appreciated the social meaning of the project and was also impressed by the vivid drawings.
“The drawing class aims to encourage children to express themselves. I think it was successful because I can see the lack of constraint and straightforwardness – typical personal characters of ethnic people – through these childish strokes.”
For project initiator Wei, the exhibition is just the beginning of a long road.
“Improving the cultural life of local people in Ha Giang is something that we can’t do in a few days. We hope to get more sponsorship to expand the project’s scale so children in other region can benefit from the Mountain Star charity programme,” he said.
With financial support from sponsors, the project will hold a fundraising auction featuring the children’s drawings as well as paintings by the volunteer painters.
The exhibition is open until October 29 at Heritage Space, Dolphin Plaza Tower, 28 Tran Binh Street, Tu Liem District. It will also be brought to Ha Giang and Kaohsiung, Taiwan.