Du Ke Theatre – a unique performing art of Southern Vietnam


Du Ke is a style of musical theater created by Khmer people in southern Vietnam in the early 1900s, which reflects the Khmer people’s daily life and production activities. It has resonated throughout the Mekong Delta and many other places, even Cambodia.

Performing arts of Du Ke at Tra Vinh University

Pride of the Khmer people

Du Ke theater art is a unique form of theater of the Khmer community in the South, the result of the creative spirit and passion for art. The Du Ke theater was born in the early 1920s, welcomed by the public, meeting the needs of enjoying arts of the Khmer in the South.

After about a century of establishment and development, the art of theater has made contributions in many ways, enriching the spiritual life of the people, creating a diversity of traditional art forms. … In 2014, the Du Ke theater art was recognized by the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as a national intangible cultural heritage.

Meritorious Artist Lam Vinh Phuong (Soc Trang province) said: “For a long time, the Du Ke Art theatre has had a source of soul, sentiment, in the working life, in the customs, and beliefs, community threshold, reflecting the real life of the Khmer in the South. That is the traditional theatrical art heritage that has been inherited, preserved and developed by many generations. It can be said that the Du Ke theatre is an important art form, a bright spot and colors to embroider the cultural picture of the Khmer Southern region imbued with national identity. Therefore, the Khmer are very proud of their ancestral artistic and cultural creative values”.

Efforts to conserve

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pham Tiet Khanh, Rector of Tra Vinh University, Du Ke was born from the working people, based on the wisdom and spirit of the Khmer people in the South, associated with special cultural and artistic displays of local and regional characteristics.

Now over 100 years old, due to the urgent need to preserve and develop Du Ke in the new era, there have been researching activities, Du Ke performance festivals, and script production camps. implementation by the Mekong Delta province.

Tra Vinh University also organizes a scientific seminar “Du Ke theater art – 100 years of establishment and development”, attracting a lot of attention from scientists, seniors and artists, with many speeches and opinions discussing the preservation and development of Du Ke.

Experts recognize that Du Ke is very unique, but in current globalization context, due to the needs of changing entertainment of the people, the explosion of modern entertainment forms makes Du Ke theater face many difficulties. The veteran artisans and artists are less and less, while the inheritance team is not well trained. The method of collection, storage and dissemination are limited. The investment in scriptwriting, staging and planning to perform new shows that have not met the needs of the public.

From these above limitations, experts believe that there should be appropriate forms of dissemination and propaganda among the community, especially young Khmer people, to help them understand the art of Du Ke. The province needs to strengthen the opening of teaching classes to create movements among the public and discover talent and passionate young people to continue formal training in the future.

Experts at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH), Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, suggest that the art can be put in the tourism field. Accordingly, Du Ke can be exploited into tourism products, especially cultural and spiritual tourism.