Central Highlands’ cultural cream offered for sale

Published: 10/12/2010 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge – Antiques from ethnic minority groups in Vietnam’s Central Highlands are in high demand.

A robe that was used by elephant hunters in Buon Don (photo: Tuoi Tre)

Not only ancient gongs and drums but also traditional family appliances of Ede, Mo Nong, Ge Trieng ethnic groups like papoose, farming and hunting tools, etc. have become expensive.

antiques have been quietly flowing out of villages to personal collections.

From Buon Trap…

Buon Trap town in Krong Ana district, Dak Lak province, is very small but it is famous for a women’s gong troupe, Ede Bih, which has performed at many music festivals at home and abroad.

However, Tran Viet Du, Buon Trap official in charge of cultural activities, said that the troupe has its own set of gongs but two of them were broken. The women’s gong troupe has to hire gongs to perform, paying VND200,000 ($10) each time.

Du said previously his town had two sets of gongs, which were owned by Y Phang and Mi Hop but Y Phang has sold his gongs. Many people went to buy Mi Hop’s gongs but he wouldn’t sell them. Luckily, the only women’s gong troupe in the Central Highlands still has a set of gongs.

Y Phang, who already sold six gongs for VND5 million ($250), said he was willing to sell a K Bang chair (which is made from a tree-trunk of 15-20m long), a drum and several big gongs for VND250 million ($13,000).

Y Wai Bya, director of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Dak Lak province, said that the loss of traditional items and antiques has become a big problem for the Central Highlands.

He said that there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the cultural heritage? preservation policy is not good. Secondly, many people adopt modern lifestye so traditional items are being replaced.

Dak Lak province has issued a decision on preservation of gongs and traditional items. The province will carry out a survey of gongs in the community. families that have old gongs will be provided with VND500,000 ($25) annually as preservation fees.

However, Y Wai Bya said that in the long run, the authorities need to take more practical actions to restore traditional culture through organizing festivals as opportunities for local people to strengthen their sense of identity

He also suggested building a museum to preserve traditional items in every village.

… to Buon Don

In Buon Don (Don village), which is very famous for taming elephants in the Central Highlands, all elephant hunter equipment has become expensive.

Ama Pet, a famous elephant hunter, said only several families in Buon Don currently have ropes used in hunting .

He said the popular tools of elephant hunters include a special rope which was made of skins of a female buffalo and two old wild buffaloes and a piece of wild buffalo skin as lining of the chair on elephant back.

He said he wanted to sell a set of tools for hunting elephants, which was handed down from generation to generation. He used these tools to hunt 15 elephants. However, since the government banned elephant hunting, he didn’t use them anymore

He showed the tools and offered the price of VND15 million ($750).

Traders of Central Highlands antiques earn money very easily because there are a lot of people who want to collect these items, ranging from valuable objects like ancient gongs, drums and musical instruments to daily-life tools as pestles, mortars, papooses, etc.

Old music instruments are selling like hot cakes, for prices ranging from dozens to thousands of US dollars.

The prices for papooses are from VND700,000 ($35) to VND1.5 million ($70) depending on the design. Papooses made by Gie Trieng and Mo Nong people are more expensive because they are more complicated than those made by other ethnic groups.

Hunting tools including swords, javelins, shields, crossbows, etc. are priced at least at VND2 million ($100)/item.

The combs used to brush the roof of communal houses (stilt houses) and xa gat (knives used by ethnic minority people) have become special, with prices between VND400,000 and VND600,000 ($20-30).

Pestles and mortars, made from Artemisia wood, are worth VND5 million dong ($250).

Tet poles are sold from VND800,000 to VND1 million ($40-50).

Coats made of tree peels are priced for several million dong (over $100).

Notably, ancient gongs that have been transferred from generation to generation are offered for sales publicly. In Cu Mga district, Dak Lak province, a set of nine ancient gongs are offered for sale at VND9 million dong ($450).

A man name P in Vinh Quang commune, Kon Tum city, is the most famous antique trader. It is said that he has many antiques that even national museums don’t have, such as an ancient spinning tools, trays for village chiefs, ancient statues featuring the buffalo stabbing festival, etc.


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