Hungarian professor captures Bru - Van Kieu people’s lives

Saturday, 2018-10-27 10:15:56
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Visitors look at photos taken by Hungarian professor of socio-cultural anthropology Gabor Vargyas. (Photo
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NDO/VNA – About 70 photos are on display at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology to show the lives of the Bru - Van Kieu ethnic people of central Vietnam.

The photos are part of an exhibition entitled Divinities, Ancestors and Shamans: The Bru - Van Kieu in The Truong Son Range, and were taken by Hungarian professor of socio-cultural anthropology Gabor Vargyas in the 1980s.

The exhibition will run until January 2019. Visitors will have a chance to learn about the life and religion of the Vietnamese Bru - Van Kieu ethnic group, who live primarily in the two central provinces of Quang Tri and Quang Binh.

Between 1985 and 1989, Professor Vargyas spent one and a half years in the Central Highlands in a Bru - Van Kieu village in Huong Hoa, Khe Sanh in Quang Tri. He moved into a local home and was accepted as a member of the family.

He lived, slept, ate and worked with the family, sharing their fate in good times and bad times. He learnt their language and spent all his time and energy on getting to know Bru - Van Kieu culture from the inside.

"The circumstances were more than romantic," said Vargyas. "To reach the village, one had to walk a whole day on forest paths and cross rivers on suspension bridges. There was no electricity, shops, radio, television, telephone, post office or medical station. If money was known, it was hardly ever used.”

"During my fieldwork I worked 14-16 hours and walked on average five to 10 km per day. I lost more than 20 kg, and during the 10 months I did not leave the village, only two letters from my family reached me."

After 30 years, those remained the most beautiful days of his life, and he still remembers them with emotion. There is rarely if ever such a unique occasion in the life of a social scientist or researcher.

"The exhibition of my field photos is open in perhaps the most prestigious ethnological museum in Southeast Asia, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology," said Vargyas.

The photos feature daily life; images of farm work and ritual ceremonies help visitors understand the lives and beliefs of a Vietnamese ethnic group in the 1980s.

During the recent ceremony to open the exhibition, a book by Vargyas on Bru - Van Kieu culture and customs was also released. It is a collection of Vargyas’s scientific essays about different aspects of the culture: ethnic affiliation, subsistence and related technology, shamanism and rituals in the Vietnamese language. It is published by Dong Tay Publishing House.