Portraits of Vietnamese ethnic people captured by a French photographer over the past five years are drawing big interest at an exhibition in his hometown Normandy.

Réhahn, who has taken thousands of pictures in Vietnam, brought to the exhibition 30 photos highlighting the diversity of Vietnamese ethnic culture.

The photos introduce 20 costumes of Vietnamese ethnic groups, from H’Mong and Cham people to the lesser-known Brau community, which only has 400 members in Vietnam.

The portraits are on display at a 100-square-meter exhibit in Normandy during a 10-day event called “Precious Heritage of Vietnam.” The event will run until September 26.

Réhahn said the exhibit has been doing well and he expects to have a total of 200,000 visitors.

“They were very impressed, especially by the costumes," he told VnExpress International. "They didn’t imagine that Vietnam has so much diversity.”

A similar photo exhibit was held in Ho Chi Minh City in March 2015.

In August, the artist just wrapped up a month-long display of 40 photos of Vietnamese women in Hoi An ancient town, where he has been living for four years.

By Thuy Vi - VnExpress - September 24, 2016


‘Legacy of Vietnam’ photo exhibition opens in France

French photographer Rehahn has made capturing images and documenting the stories of the various ethnic cultures of Vietnam his life’s mission.

People seem to be unaware of how fast the numbers of the ethnic groups in Vietnam are dwindling around them, says Rehahn. It’s as if a part of cultural history is going to sleep forever and no one seems to be doing anything to wake it up.

No one can deny that if there’s one characteristic of Vietnamese people that stands out, says Rehahn, it’s that they are an extremely resilient culture. They’ve managed to turn a traumatic history into a blossoming future. This however, seems to have come at a price.

If you ask a young person in Vietnam these days to tell you something about another ethnic group, they really don’t seem to be able to tell you very much.

Adapting to the changing times has had an impact on the ethnic groups that no-one has really seen coming. As young adults leave their villages to go and work in the big cities for a better future, they end up making a new history, leaving behind a cultural heritage that could be lost forever.

The reality that some of these ethnic tribes are vanishing has instilled in Rehahn a sense of urgency driving him to develop a collection of his best photos, which he aptly describes as Vietnam’s first Precious Heritage Collection.

Entitled in French, ‘Precieux Héritage du Vietnam’ which translates literally into English as ‘Precious Legacy of Vietnam’ the collection of photos, traditional ethnic costumes, exhibits and other artefacts gathered by Rehahn has opened for the first time ever at the Caen Expo Congress (September 16-26) in Normandy, France.

The premiere is expected to welcome a total of 200,000 international guests from all corners of the globe.

Rehahn’s idea is to take his collection that documents life as it unfolds for each ethnic tribe in Vietnam and display it to the world, thereby ensuring the first-hand authenticity of cultural feelings and rituals are told through his lens— as opposed to some one-dimensional lifeless version often found online.

Rehahn, who has settled in Hội An in central Vietnam, with his family has future plans to build a Cultural Ethnic Museum in his adopted home.

As a final step in preserving the Precious Heritage Collection, he says he has plans to write a book about all the tribes. One that truly reflects the rich culture and diversity of each ethnic group, so that the young generation can feel the pride that their ancestors yearn for them to feel.

A conclusion of hope

Rehahn believes that perhaps one of the reasons why there is little care of cultures disappearing in some regions is because that culture isn’t valued outside the community.

His hope is to be the voice and mirror of the Vietnamese people – this way when their culture is reflected back at them through someone else’s eyes, they will see how important it is.

We know, says the passionate artist, that we often have to look back before we can move forward and it is a truly wonderful experience to be able to remind people of the beauty of their unique cultural legacy.

VietNam Net / Voice Of Vietnam - September 24, 2016