Youth Creative Entrepreneurship Enhances the Vitality of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Vietnam
In 2019, after several years of working for a multinational corporation, Nguyễn Huyền Châu, a Commercial graduate born in the mid-1980s, founded VAN•HOA, which she proudly introduced as ” a young and ambitious creative business that embraces the beauty of local culture and wisdom.”
Following its establishment, VAN•HOA’s first project aimed to identify and extract different elements of decorative patterns found on excavated artefacts and relics inside the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long, the first capital of Vietnam’s independent Empire established in 1010. In-depth research effectively equipped with digital tools allowed VAN•HOA to capture the nature and distinctive characteristics of many traditional patterns associated with Vietnamese historic architecture. With this repository in hand, VAN•HOA moved further to turn original symbols into digital decorative motifs and applied them to produce a wide range of consumer goods such as cellphone cases, scarves, cushion covers, notebook covers, etc.
While the stories of VAN•HOA and its founder, Nguyễn Huyền Châu, are interesting, they are by all means not unique in Vietnam. The number of young entrepreneurs who aim to transform the ICH and its resources into consumer products is increasing remarkably nowadays.
On the one hand, such proliferation is facilitated by the current national policy framework and discourse, which emphasize the significance of ICH as both a means of constructing and asserting cultural identity and a powerful actor for socio-economic development. Citizens’ efforts, especially those by younger people, to explore the potential of ICH are greatly encouraged.
On the other hand, as shared by many young people themselves, finding a way to introduce distinctive values of Vietnamese culture to broader communities, both domestic and international, has become an intrinsic need for them. Similar to Nguyễn Huyền Châu, who founded VAN•HOA after years of working in a multicultural environment, Nguyễn Việt Nam, founder of a business called TiredCity, for instance, was also motivated by his desire to relocate Vietnamese culture in an increasingly globalized world. These youngsters find a path towards their goals by combining their appreciation of ICH with creative entrepreneurship and innovative capacity.
VAN•HOA and TiredCity work to provide goods and services that are both inspired and accentuate distinctive values of Vietnamese culture. A diversity of fashion items, printing products and office supplies carrying Vietnam’s traditional symbols, paintings and patterns have been produced. Both VAN•HOA and TiredCity have become popular brands among Vietnamese consumers, especially the youth.
Consumer goods, as such, are effective channels not only to disseminate and promote Vietnamese ICH values but also to help nurture young citizens’ creativity and business skills. Even more so, the shared vision and objective of protecting and reviving the country’s valuable culture have become a glue that connects various stakeholders, including entrepreneurs, artists, ICH practitioners and consumers.
TiredCity, for example, has collaborated with more than 1,000 artists over the last five years on different projects aiming to develop high-quality daily goods using ICH resources. Besides their production and trading activities, TiredCity founded a community called Vietnam Local Artist Group (VLAG) as a platform for artists across Vietnam to share and exchange their creations based on inspiration from local cultures. Through supporting activities and events of the VLAG, including regular illustration challenges and exhibitions, TiredCity helps bring young artists whose creations are breathing new life to traditional cultural practices and elements closer to the general public in Vietnam.