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HỘI AN, Quảng Nam – French photographer Réhahn Croquevielle once again dazzled visitors with his latest private art gallery, which opened in the central province of Quảng Nam’s ancient town of Hội An in early January.
The 250 square metre mini museum, displaying over 30 traditional minority ethnic customs, items and 200 pictures with stories written in 3 languages of French, English and Vietnamese, is the result of 5 years of exploration of Việt Nam and a large number of previous exhibitions.
The non-profit museum, entitled Di Sản Vô Giá (Precious Heritage), is aimed at showing the beautiful diversity of Việt Nam and constitutes his “thank you” to the country, while expressing the concerns of Croquevielle over vanishing traditional customs, especially among minority ethnic groups.
Alongside the customs and items, at the exhibition, every itinerary to each minority ethnic group of Croquevielle has been reconstructed via respectively large portraits of people who belong to each group.
The 38-year-old also collected and picked from original sources with information regarding the domicile, population, featured culture highlight of each group, as well as adding his own experience through each journey.
“In July 2016, I was privileged to meet the smallest ethnic group in Việt Nam, named the O’Du. There are only about 376 people currently in this group. They can be found in central Nghệ An Province. There’s virtually no information about this group available online, so it took me two days to find them! I was however lucky enough to meet the chief who was initially reluctant to part with a costume. But when I told him about representing this group in my collection, he helped me obtain one. I was surprised to discover that the O’Du only have 5 complete original costumes left!
I also met Vi Thị Dung, a 78-year-old woman who turned out to be the last person making the skirt in the village. In order to obtain a full costume today, the O’Du has to cross the border into Laos, something they rarely do. I also discovered that only 10 people left in the village can speak the original language called Phrom. All 10 of these people are over 70 years old. However, not one is able to read or write the original language so there are no books referencing it, making it impossible to even learn anymore,” he recalls.
Croquevielle, who was listed in top 10 best travel photographers by website boredpanda.com, bought a private building for his display so as not to rely on rented property. “No one can tell what will happen in the next 10 or 20 years. If I were no longer exist or able to live in Việt Nam anymore, I want these customs to be preserved in Hội An, and wish to give this collection to Việt Nam,” he said.
Võ Phùng, director of Hội An culture and sports centre, said this art space is a valuable venue to introduce the town to visitors, “I think the authority should introduce this place, as a highlight of Hội An culture to domestic and international visitors. The museum also acts as an alarm on preserving, promoting and restoring traditional culture of the nation, the minority ethnic customs, which are being lost day by day, as Croquevielle has witnessed,” said Phùng.
The museum is open free to the public all week. – VNS