Efforts made to uphold, promote Cham people’s pottery making

The south central provinces of Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, home to the art of pottery making of Cham ethnic people, have been taking steps to preserve and bring into play the value of this UNESCO-recognised intangible cultural heritage at the same time with developing community-based tourism. On November 29, 2022, the art of pottery making of Cham people was inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding by UNESCO. Cham pottery products are mainly household utensils, religious objects, and fine art works, including jars, pots, trays, and vases. They are made by women and viewed as an expression of individual creativity based on the knowledge transmitted within the community. Instead of using a turntable, the women move backwards around the piece of clay to shape it. The pottery is not glazed but baked outdoors with firewood and straw for seven to eight hours, at a temperature of about 800 degrees Celsius. Raw materials (clay, sand, water, firewood and straw) are collec ted locally, and the knowledge and skills are passed on to younger generations within families through hands-on practice. Bui The Nhan, Director of the Binh Thuan Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the province has been implementing a project on preserving and developing the heritage practice in Binh Duc hamlet of Phan Hiep commune, Bac Binh district, where the pottery making is a long-standing craft. Many detailed targets were set in this project, including raising the rates of households engaging in pottery making and artisans practicing the craft to more than 15% and over 16% by 2030 from 11% and nearly 12% in 2021, respectively. All-level authorities, sectors, villagers, and businesses are making joint efforts to expand the market for pottery products. Authorities have also been repairing and upgrading infrastructure to protect the environment there, while selecting a site in Binh Duc to build a hall for exhibiting products, the production process, as well as other traditional arts of Cham people, aiming to both preserve the Cham culture and develop tourism, he noted. Early last month, the Museum of Binh Thuan province coordinated with the People's Committee of Phan Hiep commune opened a class to teach traditional pottery skills of Cham people to over 30 young residents in Binh Duc. In the neighbouring province of Ninh Thuan, the pottery village of Bau Truc is now home to two cooperatives and 11 establishments producing and selling pottery products, along with about 300 households involved in the craft. Ninh Phuoc district, where Bau Truc is located, is investing efforts in a project on preserving and developing this pottery village. In particular, it is mobilising resources for infrastructure improvement, providing craft training for the young, and combining craft preservation with tourism development. Local authorities are also assisting production and trading establishments and cooperatives in Bau Truc to apply information technology to advertise and sell products online to buyers nation wide and even abroad in order to help villagers maintain the craft and earn their living from it. Since the art of pottery making earned UNESCO's recognition, communications about heritage preservation and promotion have also been enhanced, thus encouraging many young people to learn the craft. Identifying this art as a precious resource for tourism development, various measures have also been carried out in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan to enhance the provinces' tourism attractiveness. Under its tourism development plan for 2021 - 2025, with a vision to 2030, approved by the provincial People's Committee, Ninh Thuan will focus on four typical products, namely marine leisure tourism, hi-tech agro-tourism, ecotourism at the Nui Chua Biosphere Reserve, and cultural tourism, especially the one linked with the Cham cultural heritage. Nguyen Van Hoa, Director of the Ninh Thuan Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, noted the Bau Truc pottery village is an outstanding destination in this province. A community-b ased tourism board was established in the village and groups set up to develop specific tourism products such as a group for cuisine, a group of artisans, a group for traditional music and a group for the Cham culture. Binh Thuan, the host of Visit Vietnam Year 2023, has paid special attention to bringing into play the values of cultural heritage elements so as to concurrently preserve heritage and diversify tourism products. Chairman of the Binh Thuan Tourism Association Nguyen Van Khoa pointed out that exploring and experiencing craft villages are becoming attractive tourism activities, helping both promote cultural values and generate socio-economic benefits. Tours of craft villages of local ethnic groups, including Cham people, have left good impression on travellers./. Source: Vietnam News Agency

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