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Vietnamese women pursue art dreams in senior years

Friday, July 26, 2019, 22:20 GMT+7
Vietnamese women pursue art dreams in senior years
Dang Ai Viet (left) draws a portrait of Le Thi Cai, a Vietnamese heroic mother whose sons died defending his country, in Tuyen Quang, northern Vietnam. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre

Three Vietnamese women, in their sixties and seventies, are chasing their artistic ambitions after decades spent putting their families before themselves.

Dang Ai Viet, a 73-year-old artist from the northern province of Tuyen Quang, has for the past nine years overcome old age and rough weather to travel across the country on a beat up old motorbike, sketching portraits of elderly women who sacrificed their lives to take care of soldiers during wartime.

Viet’s love of all things related to her country’s legendary history has inspired such journeys, done as a means of preserving the memory of those people and events which otherwise might be forgotten.

Viet said she wanted to make her own mark on Vietnamese culture, rather than waste her golden years.

That desire has led to the exhibition of over 2,000 portraits Viet painted of soldiers and other civilians who sacrificed their youth to the war.

Her ambition to create such an exhibition was originally met with disapproval from family members, particularly her husband who found the idea time-consuming and odd. 

Eventually though, she found the support and encouragement she needed from others around her.

“Age is not an obstacle that prevents you from pursuing your dreams,” said Viet, who also served as the former head of the training division at the Ho Chi Minh University of Art.

Vietnamese artist Dang Ai Viet travels across Vietnam on her old motorbike to draw portraits of people who served the country in war time. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre
Vietnamese artist Dang Ai Viet travels across Vietnam on her old motorbike to draw portraits of people who served the country in war time. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Hoa Hong, 62, another Ho Chi Minh City resident, also began drawing after retiring from teaching career.

Hong’s passion for art was first sparked during her teenage years. 

At one point, she even enrolled in a drawing class with the hope of one day making it big as a successful artist.

However, as family issues, financial problems, and life in general began to take up her time, her passion for drawing was shelved for decades.

It was not until she reached her sixties and her children had settled down that Hong finally decided to sign up for an art class, hoping that it would fill a void she had felt since being a teenager.

Now, she sells her work and puts the proceeds into a charity fund for cancer patients and children from low-income families in need of financial support for their education.

 “Art not only heals your inner soul, but it also does wonders to others,” Hong said.

Nguyen Hoa Hong happily holds her palette. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Hoa Hong, who learned to draw in her sixties, is pictured happily holding her palette. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre

Ho Uyen Thom, also a senior citizen in Ho Chi Minh City, has taken up quite a different form of art. 

At 65, Thom is finally able to pursue a dream her parents squashed decades ago – becoming a ballerina.

Years ago, Thom decided she would not follow in her own parent’s footsteps and decided to encourage her daughters to learn various kinds of art, including singing and dancing. 

Her youngest daughter, Do Hai Anh, is now a well-known ballerina in Vietnam in addition to being Thom’s ballet teacher.

“She is more determined than any student in my class despite difficulties with her age,” Anh shared.

Vietnamese ballerina Do Hai Anh (right) instructs her mother, Ho Uyen Thom. Photo: NVCC / Tuoi Tre
Vietnamese ballerina Do Hai Anh (right) instructs her mother, Ho Uyen Thom. Photo: Supplied
An artwork of 62-year-old painter
An artwork of 62-year-old painter Nguyen Hoa Hong
A portrait of Vietnamese woman Le Thi Cai by elderly artist Dang Ai Viet. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre
A portrait of Vietnamese woman Le Thi Cai by elderly artist Dang Ai Viet. Photo: My Lang / Tuoi Tre

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