Globalization, 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 so, the narrative surrounding Vietnam has quite a “foreign” presence among the international audience, and even domestically to some degree. The first images people think of when it comes to Vietnam are perhaps the war, or maybe they’d focus on the cuisine and natural scenery thanks to the effort of tourism footage in more recent years. The image is either of the country’s trauma-bound identity or a paradise land of amazing landscapes. While 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 of 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.
A Group of Passionate, Young Professionals
Cultura Fish (Hiếu Văn Ngư in Vietnamese) was formed in January 2020 with the role of being the “intermediary” between academia and the public. The group consists of young people who come from across different specialties (education, communication, IT, accounting, art), and has incorporated these strengths to approach ICH as if they’re the “ingredients” of modern life. Up until now, Cultura Fish has focused on the ICH of Southern Vietnam (Nam Bo and Nam Trung Bo), such as traditional theatre performance and local rituals. The group has organized activities in various areas, such as:
• Archival: Through recording, photographing, and filming the heritage sites, under the supervision of academic researchers.
• Education: Through classes, workshops, and online classes, we instruct the public to appreciate and utilize ICH. The contents of these lessons were carefully curated based on the needs of the audience.
• 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: informative long-form essays on our website for educational purposes, infographics on our Facebook page, audio and video files on our YouTube channel.
A First Step on a Long Journey
Cultura Fish during our “Hat Boi 101” appreciation course, where participants got the opportunity to engage with the local Hat Boi troupe © Cultura Fish
As of today, Cultura Fish has only taken 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 Hat Boi 101, Cultura Fish has consistently delivered informative guides on how to appreciate traditional Vietnamese theatre through essays and infographics, archival videos such as the series “Types of Characters in Vietnamese Hat Boi,” which was also shared on the ichLinks platform. Alongside these media products, we have successfully organized three sessions of Hat Boi appreciation for an audience aged 12 to 45. It is also a project that Cultura Fish is determined to pursue in the long term, as part of which we will also digitalize the wealth of Hat Boi practice and promote it, introducing it to an international audience.
Following Hat Boi 101, Phong hoa ca vinh is another project that Cultura Fish is organizing. Phong hoa ca vinh is an archival project, in which we utilize the elements of Southern Vietnam folk performance (such as ru, ho, ly) and introduce them to the youth audience. Cultura Fish has basically completed our first age of archival material by recording thirty-five tracks of popular folk melodies from Southern Vietnam. In August 2022, with the support of the British Council (sponsor), and the help of ICHCAP, Cultura Fish shared this archive on the ichLinks platform to make it accessible to friends across the globe.
Beyond these projects, Cultura Fish has prepared even more programs that aim to assist young people with approaching traditional heritage through activities such as field trips to decode local cultures in formats like traditional music, religion, history; or via minigames organized through social media so the audience can share their thoughts about Lunar New Year festivities, for instance, all under the instruction of our researcher. Cultura Fish is also eager to be the trusted advisor for any emerging creatives who want to utilize Vietnamese cultural elements for their personal projects in fields such as photography, filmmaking, and literature.
Many More to Go
With our humble beginnings, Cultura Fish has chosen to take it slow, but remains 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 stories of Vietnam to the world that is the motivation for each member to come together and tread the waters of the world. On this journey, Cultura Fish has received huge support and attention from people of all ages, enough to fuel the passion and belief in the magical beauty of our traditional culture that is brewing in our contemporary youth.