New product papers over an old tradition

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VietNamNet Bridge – Young entrepreneurs have come up with a creative way to have visitors to Hoi An City take part of its famous nipa palm forest home as souvenirs.

Truong Tan Tho, 39, earns a living making traditional paper.

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Swirling waters: A man padding a coracle in a nipa palm forest, created on nipa palm paper.

Apart from the famous do (poonah) paper, his firm in Hoi An City, called Giay Viet (Vietnamese paper), also makes paper from the pulp of bamboo and mulberry trees.

A few years ago, Tho hit up on the idea of using the stems of the nipa palm (called water coconut in Viet Nam), found in profusion in the area, to make paper and paper products, using the know-how he had acquired in making traditional paper with local materials.

It took him two years to find a formula and method that worked, but he has since been able to create paintings, lamp shades, hand fans and wall hangings that are not only beautiful, but also have the added attraction of using locally-grown materials.

Basically, the process goes like this: the trunks of bamboo, mulberry trees and stems of nipa palms are boiled for hours and then ground to a powdery consistency.

Wooden frames with voile screens and cutouts of designs or pictures are dipped into this mixture, taken out and sprayed with water in varying degrees of force to shape and design the powdery substance on the surface. Once this is done, the cutouts are removed, creating beautiful patterns, designs and pictures.

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It’s a breeze: Truong Tan Tho introduces two hand fans made of nipa palm paper in Hoi An City.

The frame is then dried in the sun for several days.

What makes this art different is that the paper is not painted upon, patterns and pictures are “embossed” on to it.

Tho, a native of Quang Nam Province, had first begun his paper business in HCM City before setting up the Giay Viet “garden” on Nguyen Duy Hieu Street in Hoi An City with some partners.

“Creating art on nipa palm paper is a new style. I want to tell the story of Hoi An using this palm that is a well-known feature and attraction among visitors to Hoi An,” Tho said.

“While bamboo and mulberry have been used by papermakers in Viet Nam before, the ‘paintings’ created on nipa palm is unique,” he claimed.

He said the nipa palm artworks only used rotten or pruned stems from Cam Thanh Commune – home to the largest nipa palm forest, 5km from Hoi An, so it does not harm the environment.

“Strong or soft sprays will create dark or light colours on the brownish colour of the nipa palm pulp. It’s a secret skill that I found while creating artworks with different material for years.

“It seems to be a quick process, but it is a time consuming process to get an idea and lay out a story. We make and break stuff many times before completing the process of making an artwork,” said Le Thanh Ha, Tho’s partner in the Giay Viet garden.

“We have demonstrated this art at a workshop in Da Nang held to introduce local crafts to tourists,” Ha said.

“Nipa palm pulp can be used for mass production of souvenirs in Da Nang and Hoi An, giving visitors greater choice of gifts by both cities,” he added.

He said the nipa palm paper can be used for interior decoration items including lanterns, hand-fans, postcard, partitions and origami works.

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Waterworks: A craftsman sprays water on nipa palm pulp to create a painting.

Tho said the process needs a lot of sun, so work is often suspended or delayed during the rainy season between October and April.

He said a “painting” takes them at least two days to finish, however, ideas and layout would need months to create.

Tho also said the art of nipa palm paintings and artifacts would add another souvenir for Hoi An, and promote Cam Thanh as an ecotourism site.

In March, Tho and his partners completed a nipa palm painting of Polish archaeologist and architect Kazimierz Kwiatkowski, known as ‘Kazik’, when Hoi An and the Embassy of Poland in Viet Nam marked the architect’s 20th death anniversary.

The portrait of Kazik was presented to Polish ambassadress Barbara Szymanowska. It was made to pay tributes to the Polish architect, who made major contributions to promoting Hoi An and My Son as the two first world heritages in Quang Nam, as also the Complex of Hue Monuments in Thua Thien-Hue Province.

Thọ and his craftsmen have been creating portraits of the red-shanked douc langur – Da Nang’s biodiversity mascot as it hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit (APEC) in Da Nang, landscapes of the Son Tra forest, the city’s white beaches, and the Ngu Hanh Son (the Marble Mountain).

“Nipa palm has been around in Cam Thanh for several centuries, and it has become a symbol of the most popular ecotourism site in Hoi An. That’s why I wanted to promote the image of the ancient town through a palm that it is already identified with,” he said.

He felt tourists would be pleasantly surprised to be able to take a part of Hoi An home with nipa palm souvenirs.

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Impressions: A painting made with nipa palm paper depicts corner of the old Hoi An Town.

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Swirling waters: A man padding a coracle in a nipa palm forest, created on nipa palm paper.

Hoai Nam

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Via : Sapa Luxury Travel

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