A history of the Hanoi Old Quarter is reflected in documentary photos and installation art works on display at an exhibition at the Viet Art Centre, 42 Yet Kieu, Hanoi. In the exhibition, Reminders of Old Streets, young artists like Nguyen Huy An, Le Tran Hau Anh, Nguyen Quoc Thanh and Tran Hau Yen The tell stories of loss and change to the capital’s cultural heritage.
The exhibition is arranged to be interactive, through the display and performances of artisans from Hang Ma Street, which were once popular in the old streets.
Nguyen Thanh Loan was interested to find an embroidery frame by which patrons of the exhibition could contribute to the making of an embroidered picture of Hanoi.
“I tried to embroider a small part of the picture. It’s a really interesting idea, as if I am able to contribute to a portrayal of Hanoi’s image,” she says.
Thanh’s artworks play with motifs of the Old Quarter: old houses with curved, tile roofs; young women in traditional robes.
The motifs create a romantic, but commercialised image of the city. The artworks include portraits shot in the streets.
The aim is not to capture the reality of Hanoi (it is not a documentary) or to reconstruct the old images of Hanoi. Instead, it plays with the romantic and sentimental imagination of the city.
Old Hanoi and the present-day expanded capital have shown the importance of handicraft villages and guild streets.
Global integration is challenging Viet Nam on how to retain the unique characteristics of its culture. Also the process of westernisation or sinosisation has caused pressure on heritage values.
The heritage of Hanoi’s old streets will be discussed at a seminar on August 18 at the exhibition space.
It will be joined by art critic Nguyen Quan, painter Tran Hau Yen The and Dr Nguyen Van Huy, former director of Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology.
The exhibition will run until the end of August 19 as part of activities funded by the Viet Nam-Denmark Cultural Exchange and Development Fund to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi.