Exhibition showcases secrets of Muong cultural and spiritual life

The secrets of spiritual culture and life of the Muong ethnic minority in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa will be revealed at an exhibition titled Mo Mường to be held this week.

Exhibition showcases secrets of Muong cultural and spiritual life
Artist Bui Hoang Duong. Photo courtesy of the artist

The exhibition will display 35 paintings and two installations by Bui Hoang Duong, a Muong artist from Thanh Hoa.

It features the Mo Mường – a popular ritual ceremony which has become the unique cultural heritage of the Muong ethnic community in Thanh Hoa and many other provinces in the northern mountainous region.

Mo Mường is a job and also a performance practiced at funerals, religious festivals, and life cycle rituals by the ethnic Muong sorcerers.

 "Ah.... Today I clasp my hands together to pray to you here." That is the opening words of a sorcerer in most of the praying practice that Duong had been very familiar with since he was a little child living in his native village in Thach Thanh District.

Duong said he was born in a family with generations of practicing the Muong prayers. His great-grandfather recited the prayers but since he passed away in 1954, the practice no longer remained in the family. However, many of his followers tried to preserve it.

Exhibition showcases secrets of Muong cultural and spiritual life
An oil and canvas painting features part of the Mo Muong practice. — Photo courtesy of the artist

​​The artist said his exhibition was aimed to help promote and preserve the unique cultural value of the Muong.

"About 10 years ago, many people did not understand Muong prayer, so considered it a kind of superstition due to the wrong methods of some local shamans. Actually, Muong prayers are all about morality, ethics and doctrines of humanity and life that teach people about good personality, social behaviour and filial piety. Many practitioners now understand they have a responsibility to lead the nation in the best spiritual direction, maintain and protect the cultural foundations," said Duong.

Duong, who has travelled extensively throughout the country and abroad since 2000, has a deep and endless affection for social life, humans and animals particularly dogs which appear in many of his works displayed in this exhibition.

Commenting on his works, writer Nguyen Dinh Chinh said: "It is not unusual that when people see paintings, they often ignore what is 'right or wrong, ugly or beautiful'. If they like, they will stop to look at them but if they don't, they will walk away."

"It is not like that for Duong's paintings. Even if you don't like them, you can't walk away," he said.

 

"Be patient and wait until the colour and lines in the paintings disappear. The paintings are slowly emanating and erupting a very strange but familiar energy. It is not the energy that pushes people to drown and become corrupted in hatred, greed and confusion but a clean spirit that inspires people to slowly find the deep, pure, true dimension hidden in their souls, helping us know who we are, where we come from and where we will go. Strangely, we also understand deeply about the natural world, which we are exposed to every day by our five senses. That real world, actually is not real," Chinh said.

Exhibition showcases secrets of Muong cultural and spiritual life

A painting shows one Mo performing the Mo Mường – a spiritual activity of the Muong people in Thanh Hoa Province. — Photo courtesy of the artist

​​This is Duong's fourth solo exhibitions since 2007. His latest group exhibition was XOM, which took place in Hanoi last August.

He chose this time to open the display as it was safer since COVID-19 impacted the whole art and culture sector. The artist said he spent almost a year preparing for it and hoped he would help preserve the Muong epic poem "Land and Water".

Through the generations, Muong prayers have been passed down verbally in the community. When they’re collected, translated, and published in books, however, they begin to exist separately from people.

These days, most Muong prayers are called "Mo Mường". They are a collection of verses recited at traditional Muong funerals. 

Each Muong community has its own version of prayers, but they are all fairly similar. The existence of various versions of "Mo Mường" has helped expand the heritage and spiritual life of the Muong people.

The Mo Mường exhibition will open between April 24-28 at the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum at 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hanoi.  

VNS

Muong Ethnic Culture Museum

Muong Ethnic Culture Museum

About 70 kilometers north of Hanoi stands the Muong Ethnic Group Cultural Space Museum, the first private museum in Hoa Binh Province, and the only museum in Vietnam devoted to Muong culture.

Fostering the ‘soul’ of Muong culture

Fostering the ‘soul’ of Muong culture

Artisan Pham Thi Tang in the north-central province of Thanh Hóa’s Ngọc Lặc District is known locally as the “soul keeper” of ethnic Muong culture.

 
 

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