Opening Reception: Shaman Arts of Vietnam


This is a listing of older East-West Center events (newer listed first).  See Events to get the list of current or upcoming events.

Walk-through with Guest Curator Nguyen Thi Nhung

When: Jul 1 2007 (All day)
Where: EWC Gallery

2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Exhibition: Shaman Arts of Vietnam

Curated by
Nguyen Thi Nhung and Mark Rapoport

Installation Design
Lynne Najita

Shamanism has been practiced for millennia throughout Southeast Asia and is still a significant aspect of many of these Vietnamese mountain communities. Despite centuries of famine, dislocation, emigration, and "ethnic cleansing," they continue to preserve their traditional cultures, and shamans are key figures in this preservation process. Shamans typically serve as priests, healers, fortune-tellers, advisors on building projects, matchmakers, and marriage counselors. They also help bring good luck and avert bad luck.

Shamans are usually male and often sons of shamans. In most cultural groups, including the Dao and the San Chay, only men can be shamans, and women cannot participate in the preparation and carrying out of many ceremonies. In a few other groups, including the Tay, Nung, Hmong and San Diu, both men and women can become shamans.

When people choose to pursue this calling, they apprentice themselves to a working shaman, who will be their teacher. Men who have a father or an uncle who is a shaman will ask him to serve as their teacher. Others must find a shaman willing to undertake the burden of their training and request that the shaman "adopt" them as apprentices. A shaman may have one apprentice or many. One very senior shaman of the San Diu community currently has thirty apprentices! Shamans usually consider it to be an honor to serve as teachers. For that reason, many receive no payment from their students, although on occasions they may receive a chicken, some sticky rice or alcohol. Normally shamans must look elsewhere for steady income, such as farming, to support their families.

Apprentices learn from the master a wide variety of skills including the local language written in Chinese characters, rituals, and shamanic codes of behavior. Because the process can be lengthy (requiring six months to over 3 years), the teacher must decide in each case when the applicant is mature and skilled enough to undertake the prescribed tasks. At the culmination of training, each apprentice undergoes an initiation ceremony and is given a spiritual name. Sometimes a single ceremony is held for many initiates.

Once initiated, shamans perform many ceremonial and counseling functions for their "flock," which includes the members of their own village, persons from their ethnic group living in other villages, and sometimes members of other minority groups.

This exhibition features five categories of art objects that help viewers to better understand shamanic rituals: paintings; costumes; musical instruments; written material, stamps, and printing blocks; and power objects.

Coming Up:

August 5, 2007, 2:00 p.m.
Film Showing
"Between Two Worlds: the Hmong Shaman in America"

September 9, 2007, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Illustrated discussion
"From South of the Clouds: Vietnamese Shamanic Traditions"
Guest Curator, Mark Rapoport, M.D.

Click here to view Arts website.

East-West Center Gallery
Honolulu, Hawai`i

John A. Burns Hall, 1601 East-West Road (corner Dole St. & East-West Rd.)
Gallery hours: Weekdays: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Sundays: Noon-4:00 p.m.
Closed Saturdays and holidays

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Michael Schuster
Phone: 808-944-7543