American photographer Tewfic El-Sawy has published a photo book about the Hầu Đồng tradition of Vietnam after documenting it for more than two years.
Tewfic El-Sawy is a professional travel photographer from New York City who has spent the past two years documenting the ancient indigenous Vietnamese tradition of Hầu Đồng. It was his serendipitous attendance of a Hầu Đồng ceremony in northern Vietnam during a 2014 photo expedition that triggered his interest in documenting this form of indigenous worship and adopting it as a long-term personal photographic project.
In his words:
“Over the years, I photographed faith-based festivals, events, and rituals; some pertaining to esoteric cults and others that are ancillaries to major world religions. While all have their singular ‘brand’ of exoticism, I found the Đạo Mẫu (Mother Goddess) rituals and ceremonies were the only ones that mixed religiosity with fashion, that merged choreography with theatrics, that involved soothsaying and mediumship, and engaged audiences in a way I hadn’t seen before.
What a contrast to the dour and joyless rituals of the so-called monotheistic religions!”
As Viet Nam is seeking UNESCO recognition of Đạo Mẫu and its ritual – Hầu Đồng to be inscribed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, Tewfic has published a large coffee-table format photo book entitled “Hầu Đồng: The Spirit Mediums of Viet Nam”.
The book comprises over 100 large color photographs and more than 60 pages of text, which explains the ancient religion of Đạo Mẫu, its rituals, its pantheon of deities, along with a narrative of the photographer’s own experiences documenting it in Vietnam over almost 2 years.
Interested Hanoi’s expats and local citizens will have chance to talk to Tewfic about Đạo Mẫu and Hầu Đồng. Details of the talks will be updated soon here on HanoiGrapevine.