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Initiator of Hue sculpture garden
By Nguyen The Thinh Thanh Nien (Youth) newspaper

Nguyen Hien, head of the Sculpture Department of Hue University, is an executive manager of the international sculpture camp ‘Vietnam - Hue Impression 2002.’ "There were foreigners asking me why I have a wonderful garden of sculptures by the Perfumed River without spending anything," he began his story about the sculpture garden. "We have spent a great deal, which can’t be counted with money. That is all the Vietnamese people have done to have a nation and this poetic riverbank. We reserve it for international friends to come there to show their affection, I replied to them."

The story began in 1997.

The idea to hold an international sculpture camp in Vietnam was put forward by the Sculpture Department of Hue University and supported by the Hue municipal People’s Committee and the Ministry of Culture and Information. There were 20 sculptors participating in the camp, including eight foreigners.

"I received an invitation to join the camp. Sculptor Diem Phung Thi of Hue was also invited. I was sent to Hanoi to create two sculptures: one by me and the other based on a sketch by Diem Phung Thi and to learn how to manage the camp," said Mr Hien.

Lecturer Nguyen Hien submitted the first statement to Hue University in October 1997 to ask for opening an international sculpture camp in Hue. The university agreed with a condition that Hue Fine Arts College had to cover any cost. Each international sculpture camp costs billions of dong (Vietnamese currency), so how could this be met?

At last, leaders of Thua Thien - Hue province joined the effort. Vice Chairman of Thua Thien - Hue provincial People’s Committee Le Viet Xe and teacher Hien came to Hanoi to ask for sponsorship.

"Eventually everything was done. We were very grateful to Ms Ninh, an assistant to the foreign minister at the time. Ms Ninh comes from Hue and loves Hue very much," said Mr Hien.

When the money problem had been dealt, Hue was in the rainy season. The camp was held for 45 days from November 1 to December 15, 1998 but it rained for 42 days. It was the second international sculpture camp held in Vietnam, but it was the first time in Hue. The camp was considered the biggest scale at the time with the participation of 29 sculptors (13 Vietnamese and 16 foreigners). The camp ended with 29 sculptures left for the Hue sculpture garden on the bank of the Perfume River.

"After that, I proposed that provincial leaders should include the international sculpture camp into the Hue Festival so that, when the festival ends, Hue would have a garden of sculptures," said Mr Hien. His idea was approved. "I would like to mention the roles of Ms Ninh once more. She gave us the so-called festival technology presented by the French Embassy. Festival Hue 2002 was formed like that," he said.

As of June 2001, Nguyen Hien had received US $40,000 from sponsors. He has relations with 74 embassies and 222 foreign sculptors. The third camp entitled ‘Vietnam - Hue Impression 2002’ was held, attracting 24 international sculptors and 10 Vietnamese, which cost VND 2.5 billion. According to Norwegian sculptor O Storbackken, who had joined 19 international sculpture camps, it was the biggest-scale camp he had known.

"This was also a good opportunity for my students to learn from the 34 famous sculptors. Our sculpture department was viewed as one with the best facilities in Southeast Asian region from 1998," said Nguyen Hien.

Art critic Nguyen Quan said, "A new sculpture garden came into being. It is pretty, splendid and harmonious with streets, orchards and the river. It talks and converses with Hue residents. And that fine arts affection will not stop."

"The fourth international sculpture camp will also be held in Hue in 2004. Chairman of Thua Thien - Hue People’s Committee Nguyen Van Me has decided to use six hectares of land at the foot of Ngu Binh mountain to build a sculpture garden," Hien revealed.

It is a surprise that Nguyen Hien is not a Hue resident. He was born in another central province of Quang Tri in 1960. He studied at Hue Fine Arts College and became head of the sculpture department. However, it does not matter because Hue is a cultural heritage of mankind.

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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