The Vietnam Museum of Ethnography

When we think of Vietnam we don’t think of the fact that if 87% of the population is of Kinh ethnicity (also called Viet), fifty three other ethnic minorities make up the country from the north to the south.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnography, situated in Hanoi, has nothing to envy of the famous Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. It is the ideal place to discover the customs and costumes of these communities.
Opened to the public in 1997, this exceptional space is the result of a collaboration between Vietnamese researchers and curators, along with French experts such as Christine Hemmet, head of the Asian department at the Musée de l’Homme.
Musee Ethnographie Vietnam
Musee Ethnographie Vietnam
We could spend hours there, discovering funeral rites or wedding ceremonies and all that makes up the distinctive identities of these ethnicities. The museum has collected more than 25000 objects from all of these different peoples. It also has an incredible textile collection displaying different costumes and local knowledge. Thanks to a very didactical and interactive lay out, using photos, film and audio, we are immersed into the ethnographic collections : sacred or day to day objects, antiques of remarkable quality.
Musee Ethnographie Vietnam
Each group has its own language, traditions, clothes and craftsmanship: weaving, basketry, embroidery, pottery… a visit to the museum allows us to appreciate the differences and similarities.
Although the men generally choose to dress in the Western style, the women continue to wear their traditional costumes on a daily basis.
A Hmong woman would wear large pleated skirts made from hemp and indigo cotton, with batik decorations, embroideries and appliqués. A Dao Rouge (or Yao) from the northern mountains would place an imposing red headdress on her head to conceal her long hair. The Thai women who mainly live in Western Vietnam, close to the frontier with Laos, knot long wrap-round skirts around the waists, sarongs of silk brocart in sparkling colours.
Musee Ethnographie Vietnam
Each one of these tribes keep up their traditions. From mother to daughter, the women pass on their knowledge of pigments and natural dyes, of spinning hemp and cotton, the embroidery stitches and techniques of weaving, as well as their repertory of patterns with various meanings which take their inspiration from nature.
If you go by Hanoi, a visit to the Museum of Ethnography is essential! For the Vietnamese government this museum is a showcase, a way of confirming its desire to support and promote the country’s cultural diversity and to present in the most beautiful way possible a living heritage of all of its little known communities.