Spread the love of Khmer culture to the community.

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Source: Vietnam Journalists Association

The cultural and artistic life of the Khmer people in the South is rich, with many unique arts and traditional festivals. In Tra Vinh, the younger generation is inheriting the cultural essence of their predecessors, actively preserving and spreading the love for Khmer culture to various ethnic communities, contributing to the development of a vibrant Vietnamese culture rooted in ethnic identity.

Bringing Khmer art to the community

The Khmer Anh Binh Minh Art Troupe performed at 2023's Ok Om Bok festival night.
The Khmer Anh Binh Minh Art Troupe performed at 2023’s Ok Om Bok festival night.

Actor Thach Set, born in Chau Dien commune, Cau Ke district (Tra Vinh), has been a member of the Khmer Anh Binh Minh Art Troupe since he was 21 years old. In the early days of working with the Troupe, despite limited facility conditions, he witnesses the passion and dedication of the senior artists. Late-night rehearsals, touring in remote provinces filled with the love and admiration of the audience for the Du Ke stage art, and heartfelt farewell gatherings at the end of each tour, etc. all bring him great joy and pride in his chosen acting career. Up to now, he has been with the Troupe for 20 years.

The Khmer Anh Binh Minh Art Troupe (under the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Tra Vinh province) originated from the Khmer Literary and Art Troupe, established in 1963 in Tam Ngai commune, Cau Ke district, Tra Vinh province. During the resistance war against America, alongside the focus on developing performances and artistic programs promoting unity and the uprising against the resistance war against America and Nguy regime, the Troupe marched deep into strategic hamlets to entertain and deliver loudspeaker propaganda to the oppressed people, calling on the enlightened soldiers to return to righteousness. During this period, some officers of the Troupe sacrificed their lives

After the liberation, in addition to serving Khmer art domestically, the Khmer Anh Binh Minh Art Troupe is also sent by the Party and State to serve the people of Cambodia, serving the compatriots and soldiers in border provinces, contributing to the protection of the country.

Since the province’s separation in 1992, the Troupe has continuously developed high artistic value performances to meet the people’s tastes and serve domestic and international delegations. In 2000, the Khmer Anh Binh Minh Art Troupe was honored to be awarded the title of ” Labour Hero in the Renewal Period” by the President.

The Troupe currently has around 40 positions with multiple generations of actors. Annually, they perform nearly 100 shows both domestically and internationally, with approximately 30 shows dedicated to political missions. In addition to international tours, the Troupe also performs in remote areas, distant regions, and Khmer pagodas to serve people of different ethnicities.

Thach Hoai Thanh (on the right), a lecturer at the School of Southern Khmer Language, Culture, and Arts and Humanities (under Tra Vinh University), is instructing students on traditional Khmer musical instrument performance.
Thach Hoai Thanh (on the right), a lecturer at the School of Southern Khmer Language, Culture, and Arts and Humanities (under Tra Vinh University), is instructing students on traditional Khmer musical instrument performance.

As a young individual who actively spreads the love for Khmer cultural and artistic heritage among the youth, Thach Hoai Thanh, born in 1995, is currently teaching the subject of Khmer musical instrument performance at the School of Southern Khmer Language, Culture, and Arts and Humanities (under Tra Vinh University). Born and raised in Tra Con commune, Tra On district, Vinh Long province, since childhood, Thach Hoai Thanh often accompanied his parents to the Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas in the area for religious activities. When Vinh Long Provincial Party Committee gifted a traditional musical ensemble to pagoda, Thach Hoai Thanh received enthusiastic guidance and discovered his talent by previous generation.  From tentative steps to proficiency, his passion grew without him even realizing it. With a desire to have a long-term connection with these musical instruments, after graduating from Tra Vinh University, Thach Hoai Thanh chose to stay and work at the university to have the opportunity to continue learning. Until now, he has spent three years guiding young students in using Khmer traditional musical instruments at the university.

Currently, Tra Vinh University is the only institution nationwide that offers regular programs in the fields of Khmer language, culture, and arts from college to undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Preserving and conserving the cultural identity of the Khmer community

Mr. Thach Mu Ni, Deputy Head of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of Tra Vinh province, stated that the province is home to over 300,000 Khmer people, accounting for nearly 32% of the population. In recent years, along with the implementation of various policies and development strategies for the socio-economic well-being of the Khmer ethnic community, Tra Vinh has consistently emphasized the preservation and conservation of the cultural identity of its people. As a result, the material and spiritual lives of the local Khmer community have significantly improved. In Tra Vinh, all levels of the province strive to create favorable conditions for the Khmer people and Khmer monks to preserve and promote their ethnic cultural identity, as well as conserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Up to now, the province has established 112 Ngu Am musical ensembles, 95 Sa Dam drum teams, 35 Chan – Khi dance teams, 40 ethnic volleyball teams, and 8 Ngo boat teams. Particularly, Tra Vinh possesses 4 nationally recognized intangible cultural heritages of the Khmer community, including the Ok Om Bok Festival, the Dom Long Neak Ta Festival, the Cham rieng Cha Pay Art, and the Ra-Bam Art.

Thach Hoai Thanh (on the left), a lecturer at the School of Southern Khmer Language, Culture, and Arts and Humanities (under Tra Vinh University), is instructing students on traditional Khmer musical instrument performance.
Thach Hoai Thanh (on the left), a lecturer at the School of Southern Khmer Language, Culture, and Arts and Humanities (under Tra Vinh University), is instructing students on traditional Khmer musical instrument performance.

The entire province has 143 Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas. Among them, many pagodas are recognized as National and Provincial-level cultural heritages, numerous pagodas have made significant contributions during the revolutionary period in the fight against foreign invaders. The provincial authorities regularly maintain and renovate these long-standing pagodas using various funding sources.

The Khmer community, predominantly following Buddhism, conducts all religious, spiritual, and cultural activities within the pagodas. Currently, most Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas have sound systems and musical instruments to facilitate cultural and artistic events. These pagodas serve as the nurturing ground for instilling the love for Khmer culture and arts in the younger generation.

Alongside maintaining noble customs, traditional festivals, and the arts of the Khmer ethnic community, the local authorities also prioritize the preservation of the Khmer Southern dialect and script. Teaching and learning the Khmer language are regularly conducted in educational institutions and Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas. Currently, 134 out of 143 Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas in the province organize summer Khmer language classes, with over 20,000 students participating. In the 2023-2024 academic year, Tra Vinh has 125 schools, ranging from primary to high school levels, that teach the Khmer language to nearly 36,000 students.

Additionally, Tra Vinh Newspaper and Tra Vinh Radio and Television publish and broadcast in both Vietnamese and Khmer languages, providing equal access to timely information for the Khmer community.

The distinctive cultural characteristics of the Khmer Southern community contribute to the vibrant and diverse cultural tapestry of Vietnam’s ethnic communities. Consequently, the unity of the entire national community within the province is strengthened, and the trust of the people, especially the ethnic minority communities, in the Party and State, continues to grow. The political and social security situation in the Khmer ethnic region remains stable.

By Ngoc Tram