TAASA Review Issues

December 2002

Vol: 11 Issue: 4
Vietnam
Editors: Sandra Forbes & Kerry Nguyen-Long

Cover Photo
The Dong Son drum is a powerful cultural image for the Vietnamese, and the contemporary silver plaque illustrated was inspired by the design on the tympanum of the Dong Son drum. Raised and embossed by hand, with a diameter of 24.5cm, this dramatic and exquisite piece is from the workshop of Phuc Tin, Hong Gai in Hanoi. This workshop carries on a tradition of silversmithing that came from Doi Bai village in Boe Ninh province. A 19th century ritual sword from that village is discussed by this issue’s guest editor, Kerry Nguyen-Long, on p.22. Photo: Nguyen Kim Long.

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Editorial

Kerry Nguyen-Long and Sandra Forbes

The recent horrific events in Bali reinforce the paramount importance of Australia’s relationship with its neighbours in Southeast Asia. TAASA hopes that this issue of TAASA Review might play a small part in promoting understanding of the region and encourage a more comprehensive engagement with its cultures and peoples.

This issue focuses on the arts of Vietnam. Mindful of the rich diversities of that landscape, we have endeavoured to include insights into the arts as expressed by different levels of society: that is, the village and the city. Our first article, ‘Bronze Drums and Painted Eyes’, provides an historical overview and background to the contributions that follow.

Four contributions from Vietnam bring insights which, because of the language barrier, would otherwise be denied to readers; each has been meticulously translated by Nguyen Kim Long, who is much thanked for his invaluable work. Professor Nguyen Bich, with his deep knowledge of village arts, writes about the folk paintings of Dong Ho while Dr Phan Thi Yen Tuyet describes the various influences that shaped old Saigon. Duong Thi Thuy, who writes about the participation of women in the arts of ethnic minorities, focuses here on the Dao and the Muong.

Prior to the Vietnam War, Australians were largely ignorant about Vietnam, the country and its people. Brutal war images on Australian news media were for many a rude introduction. The Vietnamese diaspora that began in 1975 marked the beginning of a deeper interaction between our two peoples and our countries, which now extends in both directions, embracing tourism, business, academic and cultural exchanges.

Australia-based scholars also contribute to this issue. Huynh Boi Tran, a doctoral candidate from Vietnam, writes about the illustrious and gentle Buddhist artist Le Thanh Nhon who made Australia his home after 1975. Ann Proctor, an Australian doctoral candidate, places in cultural context an installation by Hanoi-based artist-potter Nguyen Bao Toan. Dr Mae Anna Pang’s review of Sino-Vietnamese artist Kirn Hoa Tram’s paintings and calligraphies opens another window onto the creative diversity present in our Vietnamese migrant communities. Cao Due Thac, who arrived in Australia on 16 November 1962 as a young Colombo Plan student (this Australian program sponsored the very first groups of Vietnamese students to study in Australia), reviews Professor William S. Logan’s prize-winning book Hanoi: Biography of a City. Ricardo Peach discusses the emerging articulateness of Vietnamese-Australian youth in their contributions to VietPOP: Emergence and 1.5 Generation, in which children of the diaspora explore the issues of national identity confronting them as they negotiate living in, across, and sometimes between, two quite different cultures.

Departing Vietnam, but not mainland Southeast Asia, this issue of TAASA Review also carries Dr Milton Osborne’s comments on ‘development’ at Angkor, and Dr Pamela Gutman brings us to Burma with her review of Splendour in Wood: Buddhist Monasteries of Burma.

We near the end of the year, and it’s time to remind members that their subscriptions to TAASA for 2003 are now due. Subscription renewal forms are enclosed with this issue. Do renew as soon as you can – we think that TAASA can play a small role in increasing understanding of our world in these difficult times. Everything TAASA does is carried out by volunteers – the commissioning, writing and editing of the Review, the organisation of seminars and lectures. However, we do have to pay our designer and printer, and the postage, where bulk rates have just gone up.

We hope you like the new Review, now full colour throughout since the September 2002 issue – and at no extra cost, thanks to technological advances. We, the editors of this special issue of TAASA Review, wish our members and their families a peaceful and joyous festive season. At the same time we hope you find this issue thought-provoking and interesting.

Table of contents

BRONZE DRUMS AND PAINTED EYES: A CONSPECTUS ON VIETNAM – Kerry Nguyen-Long

FATTY PORK, PICKLED ONIONS AND DONG HO PAINTINGS – Nguyen Bich

10  DWELLINGS OF OLD SAIGON – Phan Thi Yen Tuyet

12  LE THANH NHON: PORTRAIT OF AN ÉMIGRÉ ARTIST – Huynh Boi Tran

14  CULTURALLY CREATIVE: COLOURS AND COSTUMES OF DAO WOMEN – Duong Thi Thuy

16  LOVE ON A SWING – Ann Proctor

18  DISCOURSE WITH THE SUPERNATURAL: GONG FESTIVALS OF THE MUONG – Duong Thi Thuy

20  EXHIBITION REVIEWS 

PURE AND AUSTERE – Mae Anna Pang – Paintings by Kim Hoo Tram

CULTURAL NEGOTIATIONS – Ricardo Peach – VietPOP: Emergence 1. 5 Generation

22  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY DECEMBER 2002 – JANUARY 2003

22  WHAT’S IN A SWORD? – Kerry Nguyen-Long

23  BOOK REVIEWS

MEMORY, MYTHS AND IDEOLOGIES – Cao Due Thac – Hanoi: Biography of a City

MERITORIOUS – Pamela Gutman – Splendour in Wood: The Buddhist Monasteries of Burma

25  REPORT: A MEETING OF MINDS – Tonia Eckfeld

26  COMMENT WILL GRIDLOCK COME TO ANGKOR? – Milton Osborne

27  WHATS ON

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