Tay poet devotes whole life to ethnic culture

(VOVWORLD) - Tay poet Nong Viet Toai, who was born in the Viet Bac northern region, the base of Vietnam’s revolutionary forces during their struggle against French colonialists, has spent most of his life exploring the culture of the Tay ethnic group. His many poems and other literary works have contributed significantly to promoting and preserving Tay culture.
Tay poet devotes whole life to ethnic culture  - ảnh 1Tay poet Nong Viet Toai  

Born Nong Dinh Han in 1926 in Na Cot in Bac Kan province, Toai has come to be considered a key figure of Vietnamese ethnic culture. His small house on the outskirts of Bac Kan city is filled with books of literature and art. 

"I attended the very first class organized by the Literature Association in 1963 and got interested in a French book translated into Vietnamese. At that moment I realized I could rewrite the book in my ethnic language and began to nurture a passion for literature," said Toai.

"Working for a traveling art troupe, Viet Bac’s radio station, and a literature and arts magazine, my love for the Tay language and writing grew bigger and bigger." 

Toai has written many pieces about his hometown and its inhabitants, including a well-known piece called “Viet Bac Boong hay” (Our Viet Bac), and four collections of poems: Rại roa vit pay (Eliminating superstitious traditions, published in 1956), Kin ngay phuoi khat (Being honest, published in 1962), Det chang nau (Sunshine at noon, published in 1976), and Ngoac denh (Looking back, published in 2006).

Toại’s first poems were influenced by his teacher Hoang Duc Hau, known as “the King of Tay poems”. Toại created Tay lyrics for Do Nhuan’s famous song “Vietnam - My homeland”, called “Ma thang Phya Byoc” in the Tay language. Several of Toai’s poems were set to Then songs and performed by Viet Bac’s art troupe for many years. Toai believes that Tay culture can resist being unduly influenced by other ethnic cultures.

"Many people fear that the Tay may lose their cultural identity and be absorbed by the Kinh people. I don’t think that will happen. The Tay may absorb cultural values from other groups, but will protect and preserve their own culture," said Toai. 

Tay poet devotes whole life to ethnic culture  - ảnh 294-year-old Nong Viet Toai speaks at a seminar.

In 1957 Toai wrote a short story called “Boong tang tap eo” (The turning point) about a Tay hamlet in early revolutionary years of Vietnam, in which he describes in detail the way Tay people think, talk, and behave. Among his many Tay short stories, Hat (San) has particularly charmed critics and readers.

"Writer Nong Viet Toai has contributed greatly to Vietnam’s ethnic literature. Toai, with his great love for literature and ethnic language, has set a bright example for young ethnic writers to follow. Although advanced in age, Toại still writes frequently," said Duong Khau Luong, Chairman of the Bac Kan provincial Literature and Arts Association.

Toai has spent years collecting ethnic, especially Tay, folk tunes, proverbs, and sayings. He’s now compiling a Vietnamese-Tay dictionary to help keep the Tay language alive for future generations.