Co Do village is located along stretch of river between the two areas where the Red River is joined by the Lo River and the Da River in Ba Vi district in the northern province of Ha Tay.
The late painter, Si Tot, was the first person to bring painting to the lives of Co Do villagers. At first he only taught his relatives. Then other young villagers were attracted to the art. Mr Tot taught local people to draw on the ground with coal, bricks and sticks before using paper as a cheap material for the poor village. They often drew village scenes, ordinary people or objects which are normal parts of Co Do people’s daily lives.
"My father taught me to draw when I was only six years old," Mr Tot’s son La Vuong recalled. "At the time I was too small to understand and love the art. My father asked us to draw at least 20 paintings a month. If we did not, we would be punished. When we grew up, he told us that we should thoroughly understand what we were drawing. He said that as people born in a rural area, we should know how to farm so that we can reflect farmers’ activities in our paintings. When I studied at the Hanoi Fine Arts University, I became fully aware of what my father taught me in the past."
There are 22 professional Co Do artists who have now become members of the provincial and national Fine Arts Association while the number of local amateur painters is uncountable. Most households in the village have at least one person involved in painting. For them, painting is an indispensable activity and a daily entertainment. During hot days, adults often gather at the village’s riverbank while children get together at the communal house to draw.
Among the famous Co Do painters is Hoang Tuan Viet. He is not only a lecturer at the Co Do Secondary School but also teaches drawing. As president of the Co Do village’s Painters Association, he said he tries his best to transfer his painting skills to younger generations. "Co Do village has a tradition of painting," Mr Viet said. "To preserve and develop the tradition, we hope our village will develop into a craft village. Our younger generation has a passion and love for the homeland, and now I only want to help them with the basic painting techniques so that they can make a living from it. For me, the subjects of my paintings focus on the simple and beautiful features of my native land’s landscape, farmers and particularly waterways and fishing activities, as this village is located right on the banks of Da River. I usually use strong and hot colours as I am an active person and I am living in a changing village."
That explains why Tuan Viet’s aquarelle paintings are on display in some private art galleries in Canada. Westerners are sometimes sensitive to beautiful features which are purely Vietnamese. Hoang Tuan Viet has many students, 15 of whom are studying in the Music and Painting College or University of Architecture. His daughter also has talent and at the age of 14 won third prize in the province’s painting contest.
It’s a simple dream for the younger generations to make a name for Co Do village. Every year, Co Do holds its own painting contests for the villagers and many works by amateur painters have been selected for national and international exhibitions in France, Canada and Switzerland.
In 1997, the Ha Tay province gave the title "cultural village" to Co Do village.
Reprinted from VOV News