Traveling back in time with the Hmong
As soon as I finished the drawing yesterday I sent to my mother for 'assessment' as she knows a thing or two being a very talented artist herself. "The drawing is good" - she started, - "but she looks really sad as if there is no hope left. Don't you think?"
I wasn't sure how far from the truth it was but it encouraged me to go back in time and discover the origins of this drawing and perhaps the idea behind it. The thing that originally nudged me to travel to Vietnam was a different mission altogether. Me and Ewelina went as part of the Paediatric Surgery team to Can Tho to help operate on children with various deformities. What I didn't know at the time is how big this issue was for these kids. They were all very sweet and well behaved, but these 'cosmetic' differences put them into a isolated place in society and formed a stigma around them which sometimes even prevented them from getting education, for example. It really touched me and inspired me to put this issue into and artistic content. I was so busy and dissolved in the new culture and working environment, which ultimately led to me not doing much about my inspiration. So when I left Can Tho, my deprived artistic imagination was looking for any subject to devour.
I suppose I chose this particular subject as it was the only other place I felt emotionally connected to despite all of the glory and beauty I've encountered while traveling through Vietnam. Now, back in the moment, I was just another tourist sneakingly taking pictures of the local tribeswomen as if they were aliens. The truth is they were interesting to me. Not just their clothes and wrinkled and sunburnt faces, but their way of life and culture as well. The whole thing was a bit bizarre. We were promised a gentle hike through the paddy fields, but none of us expected to be followed by a gang of ladies equipped with just a walking stick and a huge basket hanging of the back. They did help, and they did it well. We even got ourselves a souvenir in a form of a horse made of straw, and later on we also learnt what was hiding in those baskets. As the hike came close to an end, these ladies literally assaulted us with an endless amount of tiny woven handbags and scarves pouring out the baskets. We just couldn't shake them off, not that we tried very hard, but a simple 'No' wasn't getting us anywhere. These poor ladies followed us for miles through mud and rain just to sell some stuff for a couple of dollars? Does it really have to be that hard for them? Would life have been any different for them without Adidas tops and fizzy drinks from the West? Of course I don't think that's the only reason. The country has survived very harsh times. First, there were the French, than the Americans, and Sapa being so close to China takes it's suffering even further back in time. Was all of this inevitable? It's not the first time I've encountered the issue of deculturization (I don't know if you can call it that but anyhow), but when your guide tells you not to give money to children on the streets because they won't go to school, you really start to understand that things aren't really going that well.
P.S. I hope you enjoy the drawing.