14:39 | 28/11/2017 Society
(VEN) - Dong Nai has had a long tradition of handicraft and fine arts that have earned both prestige and revenues for the province while creating valuable jobs in rural areas. This sector has a lot of potential for further growth, boosting trade and helping develop tourism, but there are several challenges to overcome.
Trang Bom, Xuan Loc, Buu Long and Bien Hoa are localities well known for their carpentry, stone processing, pottery and other arts. The production facilities here are also training places for many generations of artisans, craftsmen and craftswomen.
In Xuan Loc district, more than 30 carpentry workshops employ hundreds of workers. The place is well known for handicraft items that are genuinely unique, shaped by both nature and man – no two products are the same. However, as in every trade, the handicraft carpentry trade in Xuan Loc has had its share ups and downs, and it is facing a few difficulties now.
Dang Cong Loc, the owner of carpentry workshop Minh Toan Loc, said: "All the handicraft carpentry facilities of Xuan Loc district are generally not very developed and the source material is not the same every year. The Xuan Loc handicraft village had developed very strongly because of great advantages like natural resources that were either reclaimed in the field or bought from neighboring Binh Thuan province. Now, these sources are almost exhausted, causing input costs to increase while customers have fallen sharply because they are tightening spending on non-essential items. So this has greatly has affected the Xuan Loc handicraft industry. The solution is to find raw materials – wood with high artistic value from plantation – like natural wood for processing like Cajuput, Jacquier and Faux Acajen, Loc said.
Xuan Loc handicraft products have become rare in Dong Nai itself. Since handicraft items are bought by visitors as souvenirs, promoting craft village tourism and strengthening its links with handicraft production could be new way to help craft villages develop more sustainably.
This is not easy, however, as traditional crafts have more or less been overrun by mass-produced industrial products. Mass production is much cheaper than craftsmanship and handmade products, and this has been a problem for many handicraft arts in the country.
When they cannot make a living from their traditional crafts, artisans and craftsmen change their careers. Stone engraving in Buu Long ward, Bien Hoa city, is an example. Nearly 20 years ago, it was flourishing, but the number of establishments offering the service has declined drastically since, with customers opting for cheaper services and products. There are just seven or so establishments operating with less than 50 artisans today.
Small-scale handicrafts may occupy a small portion of a locality’s economy, but they carry significant intangible cultural and social values. With proper investment and exploitation, all these values can be enhanced, and their economic potential will increase at the same time.
Recognizing the importance of traditional handicrafts, Dong Nai has been supporting the sector with several measures, including: organizing creativity contests, recognizing and awarding artisans with merit certificates for preserving the art in localities; organizing field trips to neighboring provinces to learn from their experiences; and facilitating the participation of handicraft establishments in fairs and exhibitions to help find buyers and new markets for the products.
In 2012, for instance, Dang Cong Loc, owner of the Minh Toan Loc workshop, was awarded the title of Artisan by the Dong Nai People’s Committee for his contribution to preserving handicraft carpentry. Many people have been trained at the Minh Toan Loc workshop, and some of them have set up their own establishments or found employment, both within and outside the province.
A shortage of artisans and craftsmen or craftswomen is a problem that has pushed many traditional crafts into oblivion or to its edge. The fact that several traditional facilities in Dong Nai still receive and train younger generations who like to learn these arts is a good sign for the future. It shows that some traditional handicrafts and cultural values are able to hold their own against the constant changes happening around them. Reviving, preserving and developing traditional handicrafts is an important task in localities, and Dong Nai is striving to do its bit.