Artisans honoured for preserving intangible cultural heritages

Wednesday, 2017-11-15 01:04:32
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‘Ca tru’ (ceremonial singing) vocalist Nguyen Thu Thao (middle) at a performance with Thai Ha Ca Tru Troupe. Thao, 24, is the youngest nominee in the country for the ‘Meritorious Artist’ title. (Photo: bienphong.com.vn)
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NDO – Over the past years, artisans and cultural practitioners have played a key role in preserving and promoting intangible cultural heritages of Hanoi. To acknowledge their contributions, Hanoi city Department of Culture and Sports recently announced a list of 140 nominees to be awarded with the ‘People’s Artisan’ and ‘Meritorious Artisan’ titles.

In its first edition in 2015, there were 39 artisans being honoured with the accolades, who were involved in various folk performing arts such as xam singing (ballads sung by wandering blind musicians), gong performances, cheo (popular opera), and ca tru (ceremonial singing).

This year, the number increased to 140 with 121 artisans being considered as Meritorious Artisans, who must have at least 15 years working experience in their arts careers. The 19 remaining candidates are nominated for the ‘People’s Artisan’ title, which is given to those with at least 20-year experience in their working profile, having mastered their performing skill and making outstanding contributions to safeguarding intangible cultural heritages.

In addition to popular art forms and cultural practices, this year, the city authorities also laurel artisans involved in hau dong (mediumship) ritual, cult of Mother Goddesses, traditional festivals, and ornamental plants, and cuisine.

According to Pham Thi Lan Anh, Head of the Cultural Heritage Office under the Hanoi city Department of Culture and Sports, the increasing number of artisans in different working areas has showed that the community and artisans themselves now have a better understanding on intangible cultural heritage.

In the past, the operation of traditional trade villages is managed by the industry and trade sector, which is also authorised for honouring outstanding artisans in the field. However, a number of activities at traditional trade villages also contain traditional intellectual property, thus they are now categorised in the cultural sector.

That is the reason why this year, there are artisans working at traditional trades such as gio (Vietnamese sausage) making and ornamental plants being listed for acknowledgement in the intangible cultural sector.

In addition, this year also sees many young faces such as 24-year-old female vocalist Nguyen Thu Thao, who is nominated for ‘Meritorious Artisan’ title in ‘ca tru’ singing, and 39-year-old ‘to he’ (toy figurine) making artisan Nguyen Van Thanh, who meets all requirements set for a People’s Artisan.

The list of nominees are published on mass media to collect public opinions from people and cultural experts until November 25, which will provide reference for the awards’ assessment board before submitting the list for the Government’s approval in 2018.

The seamless procedure is necessary to ensure that accolades will go to right people, particularly in the newly-added fields. For example, nominees for the traditional festivals area are regulated to be those thoroughly grasp the template for the organisation, traditional rite-of-passages, and knowledge of a typical festival. However, fact has shown that thousands of festivals are celebrated across Hanoi every year. Therefore, without strict and detailed regulations, there will be numerous artisans to be recognised.

According to available regulations, the Government will award the accolades of ‘People’s Artisan’ and ‘Meritorious Artisan’ every three years. However, cultural experts have called for more detailed criteria on the nominees’ contributions rather than only be based on the number of years in their work of record.

For their part, artisans have shown much happiness and appreciation that the State has paid more and more attention to cultural practitioners who have preserved the country’s intangible cultural heritages.

Folk ‘Do’ singing vocalist Nguyen Thi Lan from Quoc Oai district, who was recognised as a Meritorious Artist in 2015, said that the accolade has motivated her to make more effort to safeguard and uphold the art form in her community.

Hanoi possesses a large number of cultural heritages. How to successfully and effectively protect and promote the heritage are much counted on artisans and local cultural practitioners. The reward of ‘People’s Artisan’ and ‘Meritorious Artisan’ titles are needed to honour those who have made significant contributions to safeguarding and promoting their ancestors’ traditional treasure and encouraging them to hand down the practices to the younger generations.