Foreign tourists enjoy Thanh Hai water puppetry
We visited Thanh Hai water puppetry troupe on a late autumn day. At that time, a group of foreign visitors was also visiting and enjoying the water puppetry of Thanh Hai commune artisans.
Knowing the arrival of the foreign visitor group, the puppetry troupe made thorough preparations.
Performers were correctly dressed according to traditional custom with a desire to leave a good impression on the visitors about the culture and people of Vietnam.
Puppets were repaired and repainted, showing the spirit of the artisans and the soul of Vietnamese people.
The puppetry troupe prepared five items to serve the tourists. The items focused on reflecting rural life in Vietnam and some meaningful legends.
Ann Bonell, a Swiss tourist, joyfully said: "I have watched water puppetry on TV many times, but this is the first time I have seen it live. Movements were more unfeigned and very interesting, so I took a lot of photos as souvenirs to share with my friends."
Following each item was resounding applause of the international friends. They not only attentively watched but also learnt about the pieces through their interpreter.
Ernandez Macedo, a Brazilian visitor, is aware of Thanh Hai water puppetry through the press and TV. Indulging in the art, he has visited Thanh Hai water puppetry troupe twice to learn about history, culture, and pieces.
"Water puppetry is a unique art. I found artisans here giving themselves to their profession body and soul. Even in cold weather, they are willing to stay in water for performances as long as there are spectators," said Ernandez Macedo.
At present, a team of the troupe is on tour in Taiwan. This is also the first time Thanh Hai water puppetry has been performed abroad.
"We hope that many international friends will know our hometown's water puppetry. This is an opportunity for us to introduce water puppetry to foreign tourists," said Pham Khac Xoa, head of Thanh Hai water puppetry troupe.
Since early this year, more than 20 groups of international tourists have visited Thanh Hai water puppetry troupe. All groups registered about one year in advance.
Chairman of the Thanh Hai Commune People's Committee Nguyen Duc Toi said a water pavilion used for water puppetry performances was once deteriorated but the local authorities had called on businesses to give support for repair.
Whenever there is a group of international arrivals, the local authorities will arrange the commune militia and police to ensure security and order.
If only using normal eyes to see puppets, many people may not recognize the beauty and soul of human left there.
After shows for foreign tourists, artisans take puppets from the water pavilion to the bank. They clean the puppets and adjust strings carefully. To them, the puppets are not logs but have been their close friends for years.
The puppets there were hand-carved by puppeteers themselves; hence, they bear the spirit of Thanh Hai residents and Vietnamese countryside.
Pham Khac Xoa said Thanh Hai water puppetry has existed for more than 300 years with many ups and downs.
Previously, pieces were only performed by some old artisans in villages and games of some people.
In 1999, several water puppetry lovers in An Liet hamlet gathered to restore the traditional profession. At first, there were only 20 people, but to date, 29 people have joined in the water puppetry troupe.
However, to maintain the vitality of the art, the artisans can't help being worried. They accept wandering everywhere from North to South with puppets to find land for performances.
Thanks to patience, Thanh Hai water puppetry has made more achievements than expected.
Thanh Hai water puppetry won second prize at the 2004 Hue Festival, first prize at the 1st National Amateur Water Puppetry Festival in 2005, A prize at the 2006 New Act Composition Festival organized by the Vietnam-Sweden Cultural Development Fund, and first prize at the 1st National Folk Water Puppetry Festival in Hai Duong in 2011.