Globalisation, the age of information, and a prime era of technology where cultures and meanings collide – It is strange how we often find ourselves disorientated with it all, the local versus the global, the familiar versus the foreign. Just like so, the narrative about Vietnam has quite a “foreign” presence amongst the international audience, and even domestically so to speak; people would often think of us when it comes to the war, or maybe they’d focus on the cuisine and natural scenery thanks to the effort of tourism footage over the years. It’s either thinking about Vietnam as a trauma-bounded identity for our history or a paradise land of amazing landscapes – although it’s not entirely wrong, those narratives don’t fully reflect the complexity of a Vietnam that was, is, and will be. Telling a diverse and complex Vietnamese story in an honest and caring manner is one of the goals for Cultura Fish, it’s a direct result of our very lived experiences of interacting with our peers from across the globe and within the country.
Hiếu Văn Ngư – Cultura Fish members
A group of passionate young professionals
Cultura Fish was formed in January 2020 with the role of being the “middleman” between academia and the public. The group consists of young people who come from across different specialties (education, communication, IT, accounting, art), and from then the group has synthesised these strengths to approach the intangible cultural heritage as if they’re the “ingredients” of modern life. Up until now, Cultura Fish is focusing on the intangible cultural heritage down Southern of Vietnam (Nam Bộ and Nam Trung Bộ) such as traditional theatre performance, local rituals. Followed with organised activities such as:
Archival: Through recording, photographing and filming the heritage sites, under the supervision of academic researchers.
Archival project about Vietnamese hát bội
Education: Through classes, workshops, and online classes,…we instruct the public audience to appreciate and utilise the intangible cultural heritage. The content of these lessons were carefully curated based on the needs of the audience.
Using board game to educate students about history and culture of Southern Vietnam
Communication: After receiving essays from our researcher or obtaining archival content, Cultural Fish then proceeds to develop media content that is suitable with the platforms that we operate on: Long-formed informative essays on our website for educational purposes, infographics on our Facebook page, audio and video files on our Youtube channel.
Some infographic content Cultura Fish has published about Vietnamese hát bội, traditional ceremony, traditional music, etc.
A First Step on A Long Journey
As of today, Cultura Fish has only started its first steps on this long journey ahead. Looking back on our two years of formation and progress, Cultura Fish has slowly grown through each of our projects.With Hát Bội 101, Cultura Fish has consistently deliver to the audience informative guides on how to appreciate the Vietnamese traditional theatre genre through essays and infographics, archival videos such as the series “Types of Characters in Vietnamese Hát bội” which was also been shared on ichLinks platform. Alongside those media products, we have successfully organised three sessions of hát bội appreciation course for an audience that aged between 12-45. It is also a project aht Cultura Fish is determined to pursue on a long term, where we also digitalise the wealth of hát bội practice and promote, introducing them to the international audience.
Hát bội 101 students during workshop about face-painting and costumes
Beside archival modules, Phong hoa ca vịnh also offers training modules. In this picture, 9-year-old students are learning traditional music with the Cultura Fish team.
Beyond the projects that we mentioned, Cultura Fish has prepared even more programs that aims to assist young people with approaching traditional heritage such as field trips to decode the local cultures, via formats like traditional music, religion, history; or via minigames organised through social media so the audience can share their thoughts about the heritage or Lunar New Year festivities, all under the instruction of our researcher. Cultura Fish is also eager to be the trusted advisor for any emerging creatives who would want to utilise the Vietnamese cultural elements for their personal projects such as photography, filmmaking, literature.
A field-trip to historical site for grade 5th students organized by Cultura Fish
Many more to go
With our humble beginning, Cultura Fish has chosen to take it slow, but full of consideration in order to bring a meaningful impact to those who truly care. Such actions were an external manifestation that was a result of each member’s internal reflection. It is the mantra of self-understanding and bringing the story of Vietnam to the world being the motivation for each member to come together and tread the waters of the world. On this journey, Cultural Fish has received a huge support and attention from the public of all ages, from the young to old, enough to fuel the passion and belief in the magical beauty of our traditional culture that is brewing in our contemporary youth.
As an effort to have a full picture about The Southern Gem, Cultura Fish had the opportunity to meet and interview with the director of The Hát Bội Theatre of Hồ Chí Minh city, mister Võ Hồ Hoàng Vũ, he was also the art director of the program.
During the years of 2017-2018, there were many activities, projects, and programs that focus on hát bội, where it aimed to revive the art of hát bội upon various mediums and perspectives, the resurgence came up like an exciting wave of vitality for this long forgotten art to be born again.