Photographer Rehahn Croquevielle has been witness to the disappearance of cultural traditions
At a Hoi An gallery, French photographer Rehahn Croquevielle is “saying thank you” to Vietnam with a museum whose exhibits underscore the country’s cultural diversity.
The non-profit Di San Vo Gia (Precious Heritage Art Gallery-Museum) opened in the ancient town of Hoi An in central Quang Nam province last month.
Just 250 square metres in size, the museum displays 30 items representing traditional ethnic minority customs collected by Croquevielle, along with 200 of his pictures with descriptions written in French, English and Vietnamese.
The Frenchman, 38, is concerned about Vietnam’s vanishing traditions, especially among the ethnic groups. He has traced his three years of travels through large portraits of people who belong to each group. In each place he studied their homes and cultures and recorded the population, all the while chronicling his personal feelings.
“Last July I was privileged to meet the smallest ethnic group in Vietnam – the O’Du – only about 376 people, in Nghe An province,” he says. “There’s virtually no information online about this group, so it took me two days to find them.
“I was lucky enough to meet the chief, who was initially reluctant to part with a costume, but when I told him about representing his group in my collection, he helped me obtain one. I was surprised to discover that the O’Du only have only five complete original costumes left.
“I also met Vi Thi Dung, a 78-year-old woman who turned out to be the last person making traditional skirts in the village,” Croquevielle says. “To get a full outfit these days, the O’Du have to cross the border into Laos, something they rarely do.
“I also discovered that only 10 people in the village can speak the original language, called Phrom, and all 10 are over 70 years old. No one is able to read or write in the original language, so there are no books about it, making it impossible to even learn any more.”
Croquevielle – one of the top |10 travel photographers at BoredPanda.com – set up the museum in Hoi An, purchasing a private building so he wouldn’t have to rent.
“No one can tell what will happen in the next 10 or 20 years. If I were to die or be unable to live in Vietnam anymore, I want these customs to |be preserved here and give the collection to Vietnam.”
Vo Phung, director of a culture and sports centre in Hoi An, says the museum offers visitors a valuable introduction to the town.
“I think the authorities should promote it among domestic and foreign visitors as a highlight of Hoi An culture,” he says. “It also serves to raise the alarm about the need to preserve and restore traditional culture and ethnic customs, which are being lost day by day, as Croquevielle has witnessed.”
TIME MAY BE RUNNING OUT
- Di San Vo Gia is at 26 Phan Boi Chau in Hoi An, Quang Nam.
- It’s open daily from 8 to 8 and there is no admission charge.
- Find out more at www.RehahnPhotographer.com.