2003 March 15 - 2004 March 7
Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind & Spirit showcased contemporary Vietnamese culture, reflecting Vietnam’s diverse population of 54 ethnic groups through over 400 objects produced and commonly used in Vietnam. Organized with the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (VME) in Hanoi, the exhibition was curated by Laurel Kendall from the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology and Nguyen Van Huy, director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The exhibition represented the first collaboration between cultural institutions in Vietnam and the United States since the Vietnam War and was designed by the Museum’s Department of Exhibition under the direction of vice president for exhibitions, David Harvey (1; 5 p. 6).
Outside the entrance to the exhibition in the Grand Gallery, the Museum re-created a traditional Vietnamese marketplace, evoking the bamboo stands and street vendors where food and traditional handicrafts were available. A 76-foot dragon costume snaked toward the entrance and a set of three giant turtle puppets made to celebrate the 990th anniversary of the founding of Hanoi in 1010 flanked the entrance to the exhibition (1; 4).
Exhibition sections and highlights (1; 2):
*Journeys Through Time and Space, which included a timeline, photographs, and a map
*Journey of Gods, Family & Ancestors, which marked the years through holiday and celebrations and included an ancestral altar as it would be seen in a traditional household and a video of the city of Hanoi preparing for and celebrating Tet, the Lunar New Year
*Journeys of People and Goods, which illustrated Vietnam’s entrance into the global marketplace in the late 1980s and included a Sa Pa market with textiles, handicrafts, a bicycle filled with ceramics, and basketry from the central highlands
*Journeys of Life and Death, which featured coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and funerals and included a re-creation of the initiation ceremony of the Yao minority group
*Journeys of Deities and Heroes, which explored traditional village festivals and included palanquins representing festivals along the central coast and Red River Delta and water puppets recreating a festival procession in miniature
*Journeys to Other Worlds, which illustrated the journeys made by shamans and included a life-size votive paper horse offered to a spirit mandarin
*Journeys Through the Year, which featured Vietnam’s Mid-Autumn Festival and included handcrafted toys made from papier-mâché and plastic toys shaped like Disney and Pokémon characters and archival and contemporary photographs of the festival
The exhibition and its related programs were sponsored by the Freeman Foundation. The Ford Foundation funded the collaboration between the two institutions. Additional support was provided by the Asian Cultural Council and a planning grant was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (1).
A companion book of the same titled edited by the curators and co-published by the Museum, University of California Press, and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology was published in conjunction with the exhibition (1). Public programs related to the exhibition included lectures, panels, films, puppetry, and workshops for adults, families, and children (3). Another exhibition, Discovering Vietnam’s Biodiversity, was presented in conjunction with Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind & Spirit (5, p. 32).
This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.
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