The 5,000sq.m Dong Ho Folk Painting Preservation Centre was recently inaugurated, but can it preserve this folk art?
Mr. Nguyen Dang Che, one of several craftsmen of the Dong Ho village in Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province, on July 25 inaugurated the Centre for Dong Ho Folk Painting Preservation.
Che opened this centre to honour Dong Ho paintings and gather historical evidence, current products, production procedures, etc. of this famous craft village.
The centre has three houses built in an old style.
The first house exhibits remnants of Dong Ho folk painting arts comprising over 100 wood blocks of 60-100 years old which were handed down by his ancestors; and six sets of ancient paintings for which the wood blocks have been lost. The most valuable set is paintings based on a tale named Thach Sach, which are estimated at 100 years old. In addition, the room has over 170 topics of paintings, and this is a nearly all the painting topics created in the history of Dong Ho village.
Next to this house is another that displays all current paintings made by Che’s family and restored ones.
The last house of 250sq.m is a place that sells all products from paintings to wood blocks, and for making votive papers for tourists.
Visitors can also watch the process of how a Dong Ho painting is made.
Che said it would be difficult to maintain this centre without linking it to tourism activities, displaying and selling paintings; but it is a good thing that Dong Ho village has a place to preserve values of this folk art.
However, Che still wistfully remembers the past, when the wharf on DuongRiver was very busy and crowded every Tet holiday, with traders from throughout the country coming to Dong Ho village to buy paintings.
Nowadays, the village has only three families producing Dong Ho paintings. Other families are making votive papers.
He is also unhappy that most young people come to the centre solely to satisfy their curiosity about this folk art. He wants young people to come to the centre to understand the meaning and the simple wishes of the old people depicted in each painting and the value of Dong Ho paintings in comparison with other folk painting genres like Kim Hoang in Ha Tay and those of Sinh village in Hue city. He wants them to know the history of this craft village.
Che received support from local authorities to open this centre but he said such a centre can house only the visible part of this art, not the soul of it. He hopes that Dong Ho painting art will be developed by Dong Ho villagers.