Young artist committed to keeping Dong Ho folk painting alive

(VOVWORLD) - After graduating from a prestigious university, 26-year-old Nguyen Dang Hieu quit his job in Hanoi and returned to his hometown in Dong Ho village in Hanoi's neighboring province of Bac Ninh to make Dong Ho folk paintings. He wanted to carry on the trade that has been a tradition in his family for three generations.
Young artist committed to keeping Dong Ho folk painting alive  - ảnh 1Nguyen Dang Hieu has been making Dong Ho folk paintings for 13 years. (Photo: Ngoc Mai/VOV5)

“Simple,” Hieu says to describe Dong Ho paintings. "This style of painting was created by farmers to depict their daily activities. Looking at a Dong Ho painting, even if you don’t fully understand the content, you can still easily guess its meaning. I appreciate this traditional art more because of its simplicity and directness."

Since it originated in Dong Ho village 500 years ago, Dong Ho painting has been considered the quintessence of Vietnamese folk art because it reflects people’s desire for a harmonious, prosperous life.

Hieu is the grandson of Meritorious Craftsman Nguyen Dang Che, one of the three most senior artisans in Dong Ho village. Having been raised in a family with a long-standing tradition of making Đông Hồ paintings, the genre is now a deeply ingrained part of his life.

Young artist committed to keeping Dong Ho folk painting alive  - ảnh 2A corner displaying Dong Ho paintings at Hieu's house. (Photo: Ngoc Mai/VOV5)

"I have been doing this work for more than 13 years, but I have lived with Dong Ho painting since I was very little, and it runs in my blood. Three generations of my family have done this job. After graduating from university in Hanoi, I worked there for two years, but then decided to return to my hometown to preserve and develop this traditional art," said Hieu.

"I’m young and have access to modern equipment and technologies, but am still committed to this traditional occupation because I realize how important it is for young people like me to preserve our heritage. If everyone prioritizes modern values, traditional values will fade".
Young artist committed to keeping Dong Ho folk painting alive  - ảnh 3A Dong Ho painting created by Hieu and his grandfather Nguyen Dang Che. (Photo: Ngoc Mai/VOV5)

Although he is committed to traditional paintings, Hieu has come up with ways to incorporate more modern trends to appeal to young people, particularly foreigners.

"In addition to making Dong Ho painting, I’m also a passionate advocate for this art. I’ve gone to many places to meet and share with young people and stimulate their interest in Dong Ho paintings. I’ve also coordinated with some tattoo artists  to adapt Dong Ho motifs as tattoos. This idea appeals to many foreigners. My family organizes classes for people interested in learning more about Dong Ho folk painting", Hieu said.
Young artist committed to keeping Dong Ho folk painting alive  - ảnh 4(Photo: Ngoc Mai/VOV5)

Hieu’s family business has succeeded in preserving a valuable Vietnamese tradition while earning a living from it. They have signed contracts with major brands like Highlands Coffee and Maison Marou chocolate. Hieu says the best way to preserve a cultural heritage is to use modern technology to promote it. This helps to thwart counterfeit products also. 

Young artist committed to keeping Dong Ho folk painting alive  - ảnh 5A Dong Ho folk painting called "Rat's wedding"

"I’m trying to use the Internet, social media, and e-commerce to promote, advertise, and sell our products. This is an effective way to approach customers and tell them about Dong Ho paintings. There are counterfeit Dong Ho paintings in the market, so people should find a reliable channel and buy authentic Dong Ho products," said Hieu.

Hieu’s grandfather, Meritorious Craftsman Nguyen Dang Che, can’t hide the fact that he’s proud of Hieu for continuing the family tradition.

"I’m so proud that my family has three generations of  skilled craftsmen, including my son, my daughter-in-law, and my grandson, to keep our cultural heritage alive. That’s the higher goal we’re aiming for, not just making a profit," said Che.
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