On 16th June 2017, the group exhibition named “Touch, Untouch and Retouch” was organized in Center of The Old Quater’s Culture Exchange, 50 Dao Duy Tu, Hanoi. This exhibition was an opportunity bringing different perspectives of cultures, beliefs and lifestyles together, with the purpose to enhance rights and voices of ethnic minority people, and promote indigenous knowledge which is gradually forgotten.
“Touch, Untouch and Retouch” was an artists residency program to co-compose art works with local people in ethnic communities where are homeland of members of “the Pioneers for the voice of Ethnic Minorities” group. This program was organised by “The Pinoneers for the voice of Ethnic Minorities” group, with the support of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE) and Embassy of the Czech Republic in Vietnam.
During 30 days of May, 2017, the program connected artists – “the image makers”, who are interested in the cultural diversity and local people – “the voice makers”, who are ethnic minorities people in. They had lived and breathed the very same air together, exchanging stories and perspectives. 7 young “image makers” had time to co-author with “the voice makers” of ethnic communities in Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Dak Nong, therefore co-composed artworks.
For example, Linh Rab who is a comic artist and H’mong children in Mu Cang Chai produced a twenty-meter painting about H’mong fairy tales. Another example was Hai – Linh – Phong group focusing on immigrant groups to the New Economic Zones in Lao Cai during 90s, 91s. Hai – Linh – Phong group learned about the way these immigrant groups had maintained their culture, and then created shadow puppets by local materials and performed shadow-puppet show with local people.
A member of “the voice makers” group – Khang A tua shared:
“I have always contemplated how to maintain and hand down H’mong stories to the next generation, but honestly sometimes I feel it really difficult and discouraged. When participating in “Touch, untouch and retouch” program, I met Linh (Linh Rab, a comic artist), who gave me more courage to continue running my project about H’mong fairy tales, especially he made me not feel lonely anymore. To me, Linh is not my teacher or my instructor, instead he really is my partner.”
Mr. Truong Minh Giang in iSEE institute, a member of organization board, talked about the mission of this program: “By organizing “Touch, untouch, retouch” exhibition, iSEE hopes to bring artists more opportunities to learn about indigenous knowledge and culture transformation. Also, ethic minority people have chances to learn about various forms of art to actively apply in their activities. In other words, this program would be an invitation for both artists and local people to learn more, discover more and cooperate in the future.”
The message of “Touch, untouch and retouch” exhibition is that cultures are always plural, diverse and changeable. Therefore, different cultures should not be compared to make judgements, instead we should observe cultures in different perspectives to gain insight into the meaning of traditional practices in the daily life of indigenous people.