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‘Time Masks’: 67-year-old artisan’s unique craft in Hoi An

Exhibited in the traditional-style workshop, hundreds of masks with their own identity are given the unique and exotic name – “time masks”.

A colorful space decorated in an old house on Bach Dang Street (Hoi An city, Quang Nam province) by the talented hands of Bui Quy Phong, 67.

Phong mainly paints masks that characterize boi or tuong singing (classical Vietnamese opera) with various shades and expressions of emotion.

Though having a tuong style, Phong gave them the name 'time masks’ as he explained it is possible to see the moment in an event or the life of the person who bought them.

As a lover of tuong and traditional beauty, Phong is also very concerned about traditional values that are gradually disappearing.

His family advised him to switch to a less difficult job, but he held on to the paintbrush.

The mask making process has many steps, Phong shared. It first begins with a paper mache mask and this requires skilled hands to cast them evenly and smoothly to avoid any roughness that can affect the mask’s spirit. The mask border is made of rattan or bamboo rope.

“If I make a mask out of plastic, it will be faster, more convenient, and cost less work and money on materials. However, I choose paper because it is the nation’s traditional material and environmentally friendly," he revealed.

Phong always embeds the Vietnamese soul into the masks so they are separate from those from other cultures.

There are hundreds of masks in the exhibition space but all are different.

The masks do not have eye holes. "I only paint the mask without drilling out the eyes so that it is solemnly hung in the house like a painting, instead of being a ‘toy’ worn on the face when bored and easily thrown away," explained Mr. Phong.

Phong added that he does not hollow out the eyes so he can show the soul of the mask because the eyes are the windows to the soul and people will understand what the mask wants to convey with the eyes remained.

"I do not sell masks. I sell the story of people’s fate to tourists. Each mask has a message of its own. Looking at a mask allows you to see your story has been inscribed into it...”, Mr. Phong said.

There are more than 300 masks in the shop at a price of about 300,000 VND each, with many of them sold to tourists around the world.

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Artisan Bui Quy Phong, 67.

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

The unique masks made by Mr. Phong.

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Nghệ nhân U70 vẽ mặt nạ thời gian 'độc, lạ' ở phố Hội

Ho Ca

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