Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bahnar Postage Stamp

Bahnar People of Vietnam
12" x 16", oil on canvas board, 2015
The source for the above painting is a postage stamp from Vietnam. It depicts two youthful Bahnars (Vietnamese highland tribe, also known as Bana) in traditional costume. If the two youngsters on the stamp are actual Bahnars is highly doubtful. It appears as if the people, the stamp is modeled after, are Vietnamese fashion models stuck in Bahnar costumes and attributed with a Bahnar spear and fish basket. The Vietnamese government is proud of their indigenous people with their own characteristic forms of culture, who for sure are an asset to the tourist industry. The record Introduction to the Music of Viet Nam (1965, Ethnic Folkways Library) recorded by Pham Duy features three examples of Bahnar musical traditions. The track in the top 100 is called Calebass-Zither Ting Ning in the liner notes. The track is the least accessible of the three and I don't expect it would ever be used by the Vietnamese government to boost their image. I don't think Ting Ning will attract any tourist to come to Vietnam (with the exception of a few obsessed music fanatics). Tourist attractions in the central highlands include gong concerts by the Bahnar (an example is also included on the record). They were originally a matriarchal society.

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