Question: Can you tell us the number of paintings which have been restored under your project after four years of implementation? Do you think that the project is a success so far?
Arts collector Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa: Old books in French and carvings of Kim Hoang folk paintings, which are preserved at Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and in Van Canh commune, Hoai Duc district, in Hanoi, have revealed that the genre has more than 100 samples.
So far, our project team has revived 30 wood block carvings of them. In addition, we have also invited veteran painters, researchers and artisans to work together to produce more samples of the painting, such as a sample featuring ‘Nghe’ (a sacred and mythical animal in Vietnamese traditional culture), and three samples of ‘Em be ban cung’ (A child shooting a crossbow), Em be cuoi Phuong (A child riding a phoenix), and Dau Vat (Wrestling).
With these initial results, I would not say that the project has yet been a success in revitalising Kim Hoang folk paintings. It will be a success if Kim Hoang villagers show their further participation in the project, a market for the paintings is established, and tourists can explore more about the genre right there at Kim Hoang village.
However, we are proud to reconnect an interruption of a once famous genre of painting in the northern region, after dozens of years being largely disappeared.
Over the past recent years, the return of popular Kim Hoang paintings has brightened Vietnamese painting, and we believe that the glorious revitalisation has been welcomed by many people.
A corner dedicated to Kim Hoang folk paintings was set up at the National Museum of Vietnamese History in 2018. Can you tell us more about this?
We started working with the National Museum of Vietnamese History last year to set up a corner at the museum to introduce the genre to visitors at home and abroad. Resultantly, many visitors to the museum have shown great interest in the bright and colourful Kim Hoang paintings.
In addition, we coordinated with Van Canh communal People’s Committee to introduce Kim Hoang paintings to students at schools in the locality.
In the near future, we plan to open a tour to Kim Hoang village to allow children and students to learn more about the paintings. We want to turn the project’s focus more on children in order to raise their understanding and love for Vietnamese folk paintings.
A ceramic pig and li xi (red envelops of lucky money) featuring patterns from Kim Hoang folk paintings were produced under the project
You have not only expanded channels to bring Kim Hoang paintings to broader viewers but have also promoted the applications of folk paintings on cultural products. Can you share us about the outcomes of this work?
I hold that the vitality of folk paintings is a continuous process which can be blended with creativity and adjustments due to certain periods of time rather than a fixed motif which was handed over from our ancestors.
Therefore, during the restoration of Kim Hoang folk paintings, in addition to reproducing authentic original samples of the genres, we have also made some experiments of applying the paintings’ typical patterns on different materials.
On the occasion of lunar New Year 2019 – the Year of the Pig, we worked with pottery craftsmen from Bien Hoa city, Dong Nai province, to bring Kim Hoang paintings’ patterns to ceramic pigs and coordinated with silver craftsmen from Dinh Cong village in Hanoi to produce decorative silver pigs.
We also released a New Year calendar collection featuring Kim Hoang folk paintings and a collection of li xi (red envelops of lucky money), targeting children.
We are willing to provide samples and patterns of Kim Hoang paintings for craftsmen in hope for the production of more souvenirs and tourist products which can promote the Vietnamese national culture to visitors.
What is the biggest obstacle you have encountered in implementing the project?
Although it is the fifth year that the project has been carried out, a lot of obstacles still remain. The toughest one is the search for young artisans. Despite our desperate appeal, we have found only one young craftsman who showed a passion for the project.
I hope for more passionate participation from Kim Hoang villagers in our project so that we can work together to lift Kim Hoang into a new stage of development.
It is said that you and your partners are working on a book on Kim Hoang folk paintings, is it true?
Yes, it is. I think it is necessary in order to affirm the position of Kim Hoang paintings in the history of Vietnamese folk painting. The publication is also targeted to provide a source of information and reference on the treasured genre of painting.
Thank you so much for your sharing!