In the Land of the Chams
I cannot seem to get bored of visiting temples. I’d always have an interest in the meanings of these forms, colors and organisation, which never fail to keep me in awe. In the south of the country, I encountered the same temples that I left behind in Cambodia. The ethnic and religious influences in this country remain present. In contrast, the strongest possible evidence of Chinese culture lingers in the north of the countrie.
On the banks of the Mekong, I hear the beat of drums. I had expected, as usual, the drumming to be a call from a temple. But I realized, to my great surprise, that the call originated from a mosque. After the prayers, a youth invited me for tea and explained the functions of the community. Here are the Chams, an ethnic majority present in Cambodia (where they suffered the Khmer genocide) and in Vietnam. The call to prayer, unlike in other muslim countries, is the beating of the drums – a clear Buddhism influence.
Tea was followed by dinner at a neighbor’s. The young man would rather play the role of interpreter between me and the rest of the community. I discovered there are some Chams who pray once a week (on Fridays) instead of 5 times per day as in the tradition for the rest of the Muslims, and they fast only for 3 days during Ramadan instead of a month. This is probably the result of influences from several religions in this region – what a surprise!
Heading northwards, and happy that I still get amazed in this highly globalized world.
Sept. to Jan. 2013-14
Did you know...
1. The Declaration was made by Ho Chi Minh, who was President of North Vietnam from 1945-1969. He died on their National Day, September 2, 1969
2. His death was not announced until 48 hours later to avoid spoiling National Day festivities.
3. Vietnam is the world’s leading exporter of cashew nuts and black pepper.
4. From 1954 to 1975, more than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War including 58,000 Americans.
5. Vietnam has never won a gold or bronze medal at the Olympics but has two silvers.
6. Gongs are used to call children to school in Vietnam.
7. A Vietnamese speciality is ruou ran, a rice wine with a pickled snake in it that is said to cure all illnesses.
8. From August 2006 to March 2007, the Vietnamese dong was the world’s lowest valued currency unit. It is now ahead of the Iranian rial.
9. From the 10th-20th century, Vietnam issued round coins with a square hole in the middle.
10. Around 38 per cent of Vietnamese people have the surname Nguyen (pronounced as “win”).
"There is a tangible interest in making art accessible through collective education. Sharing of experience and knowledge is at the heart of this desire. Thus, one role of the artist can be defined as a catalyst between the different social realities. To actually perform the task given, the artist must completely be dissolved in the environment."