Vietnam Art Books -- Painter teaches hope to children
By Phuong Anh

Painter teaches hope to children
By Phuong Anh

A sketch of teacher Nga.
For 56-year-old artist Tran Tuyet Nga painting is not enough. Having suffered more than her fair share of adversity, the mother of two has coached many handicapped children to find their own inspiration through the canvas she loves so much.

For the past 13 years, her house has also acted as a classroom for hundreds of children of differing ages, many with hearing impediments from Ha Noi’s Xa Dan Deaf and Dumb School. They paint, under her instruction and inspiration, a brighter future for themselves.

Summer, by 12-year-old Thu Hang
"My wildest dream was not to be a painter or a teacher," says Nga, "it was to be an orchestra conductor, touching people’s souls with my baton."

Instead of following her first dream, Nga followed her second choice, to be a teacher. She says she has no regrets, that teaching has given her life special meaning.

In 1989, Nga began her teaching career with ten children, three of them hearing-impaired teenagers. Since then she has taught children as young as four through to sixteen.

"The children see life in a more up-beat way when they draw," she says. "For the handicapped, they find inspiration and for some it becomes their reason for living."

Nga collects a meagre income from her classes. Fees are often voluntarily paid by parents who want to reward their children’s mentor. From her disabled disciples, she asks for nothing but their enthusiasm.

Nga sees the past 13 years teaching art as a diary, each page tells the story of a different student she has taught. She recollects one time when one of her students dropped out after his family became bankrupt. She took him home and fed him for a number of months so that he could continue his painting classes.

"Some of the children have the talent to become great artists," she says, "teaching them drawing means giving them insight into their own talent."

Nga has already organised two exhibitions for her students. The first one was held in her fourth-floor flat at Nghia Tan living quarters where paintings spilled over into the dormitory’s corridor. The second one, hosted by the Viet Nam Fine Arts Association’s Thanh Cong Exhibition House, showcased 240 paintings all done by her talented students.

Fellow painter Le Lam said at the opening of the second exhibition: "I take a bow to Nga’s efforts as a teacher.

"It is the bow for a caring, heartfelt person with a loving spirit."

Last year, Nga gathered her entire VND20 million in savings to publish a book, a collection of her students’ best drawings. The books were later presented to all those interested in the children’s work.

Turning back the hands of time

Knitting Girls, lacquer, by Tran Tuyet Nga
Born to a family of teachers in Ha Noi, Nga left for Viet Bac war zone with her parents when she was only one. When peace was restored, she returned to Ha Noi where she enrolled in a local primary school.

The little Nga soon revealed her musical potential. She sang like a bird at school gatherings. However, her other talent was denied.

Master class: Future painters flock to Nga’s small flat to draw their sweet little dreams. — VNS Photo
"My painting teacher often yelled at me after I handed him my drawing assignments," she recalls. "‘Never ask for your parents’ help for your own homework again,’ he wrote in the papers of my drawings."

It took a meeting between her parents and teacher to clear up the misunderstanding. From then on there was no stopping Nga’s talent for drawing.

However, at the age of 16, she became a mother after an arranged marriage. Her husband was rarely at home. She tried many jobs, including working as an architect for a shipbuilding workshop, however, she was most determined to enrol for college. It took nine years before she would graduate.

While in her 20s Nga divorced with two children. The hardships a single mother has to face bore down on her continuously. She underwent surgery three times.

"When you have experienced misfortune, it makes it easier to grasp others’ difficulties," she says. "For the handicapped children I have taught, I have not only the love of a mother, but also the sympathy of one who has been in the same boat."

When asked her greatest creation in life, she replied humbly: "That is my two sons, who have been leading a pride-worthy life. And the children I have taught, they are second to none."

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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