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Ao Ba Ba Festival: A cultural bridge between East and West

By Nguyen My & Hai Dong

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The three-day Ao Ba Ba Festival in Hau Giang concluded on October 1, 2023, leaving behind a delightful impression of a cultural celebration steeped in the rich traditions of the Southern Land. International guests, including diplomats, cultural enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs, were captivated by the festival, marking a historic moment of cultural fusion between East and West, and laying the groundwork for global cultural connectivity.

“Hau Giang should invite technical and high-tech corporations to invest not only in agriculture but also in artificial intelligence and education. The Ao Ba Ba Festival conveys a clear message: culture and the economy must progress hand in hand. The festival cleverly incorporates the imagery of pineapples and featherbacks to highlight Hau Giang’s key products, showcasing the creative talent of designer Minh Hanh, the festival’s general manager for 2023,” said Kouteili Adib, co-founder and general director of PEB Steel Vietnam.

In terms of cultural development, the late statesman Ito Hirobumi, Japan’s first Prime Minister, emphasized that culture cannot flourish without prosperity. He believed that growing patriotism should be coupled with wealth creation. He also stressed that protecting one’s homeland is futile if the nation remains impoverished. Hirobumi’s words resonate with Hau Giang’s efforts to foster cultural growth and economic development as part of the Ao Ba Ba Festival.

Journalist Nguyen My and photographer Hai Dong captured memorable moments from the festival…

The mesmerizing launch of the Ao Ba Ba Festival Hau Giang 2023 took place at night on a stage built on the lake at the Ho Sen Cultural Area in Vi Thanh City, Hau Giang Province on September 29
Former female leaders of central agencies and HCMC gathered for a group photograph in front of a giant image of these distinguished figures exhibited at the Photo Exhibition of Ao Ba Ba Then and Now. Pictured from left to right are Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, former deputy secretary of the HCMC Party Committee and former chair of the HCMC People’s Council; Nguyen Ngoc Diep, former deputy head of the HCMC Procuracy; Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, former Vice State President; Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, former director of the HCMC Customs Department; Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, former member of the Central Party Committee and former deputy secretary of the HCMC Party Committee; and Nguyen Minh Phuong, the wife of Truong Hoa Binh, former Politburo member and former First Deputy Prime Minister
Vendors at the “Chồm Hổm” Market in Vi Thanh adorned themselves in colorful Ao Ba Ba attire throughout the three-day festival
Vahram Kazhoyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Vietnam, and his lady extended warm greetings to visitors at the Festival
Saadi Salama, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Vietnam, fluently conversing in Vietnamese, actively participated in various festival activities and enthusiastically promoted East-West cultural exchange at the Ao Ba Ba Festival 2023
Kouteili Adib from Canada, co-founder and general director of PEB Steel, and his lady, Kouteili Rima Issa, proudly showcased their Ao Ba Ba attire during the opening of the Ao Ba Ba Festival Hau Giang 2023
Daniël Stork, Consul General of the Netherlands in HCMC, immersed himself in the festival, donning Ao Ba Ba attire and joining in a traditional dance of the Southern Land
Laura Fontan Pardo from Spain, co-founder and CEO of Chula Fashion in Hanoi, held a Cau Duc pineapple with fiber from its leaves being spun to create Ao Ba Ba attire
Vladovich Victor, business director of interior concrete designer and manufacturer UPCONCRETO, and Kseniia Kholkina, a lecturer at the HCMC University of Economics and Finance and also an artist, looked graceful in Ao Ba Ba attire during a cultural exchange at the Festival
David Emmanuel Pederson, a programmer from Chicagoland, Illinois, U.S., and his wife Jasmine N. An, a faculty member in Literature at Fulbright University Vietnam, prepared for a tug of war, a traditional Vietnamese folk game
Ethan C. Brown, Ph.D, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, U.S. Brown currently researches and teaches social science research methods and statistical cognition at Fulbright University Vietnam. He began studying Vietnamese for just three months but can now communicate effectively. He along with 45 students joined the Ao Ba Ba fashion show at the Festival’s opening. They showcased a dress that won a prize at the AI-assisted picture drawing contest titled “My Hau Giang,” sponsored by the Saigon Times Foundation
A parade featuring Ao Ba Ba attire on Xa No Canal in Vi Thanh City on October 1 included Vahram Kazhoyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Vietnam, and his lady (second row from above), Hynek Kmoníček, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Vietnam, and his lady (third row), and Chairman of Hau Giang Province People’s Committee Dong Van Thanh (front)
People’s Artist Tra Giang (in red), Ethan C. Brown (in purple), Vladovich Victor (in white), and Kseniia Kholkina (in grey and white) waved to visitors during an Ao Ba Ba parade on Xa No Canal

As he bid farewell to Hau Giang, Vladovich Victor, who had dedicated years to mastering the Vietnamese language, left behind a heartfelt message: “My time in Hau Giang was truly wonderful. At the Ao Ba Ba festival, fashion designer Minh Hanh brilliantly and delicately captured the essence of the Mekong Delta in traditional costumes. Being a part of this experience allowed me to immerse myself in the rich historical culture of this place and forge a deep connection with the local community. Visiting Hau Giang for the first time in 15 years, after living and traveling throughout Vietnam, was a fantastic decision. Hau Giang is a hidden gem that deserves more attention and appreciation from both domestic and foreign tourists. I look forward to returning to Hau Giang one day to explore more of the beauty and charm of this heroic land.”

The Ao Ba Ba Festival Hau Giang 2023 used the imagery of pineapples and featherbacks to promote key products for the development of Hau Giang’s economy

The festival, spanning three days from September 29 to October 1 in Vi Thanh City, Hau Giang Province, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the province’s establishment (2004-2024) under the theme “Bringing internal strength into play, grasping opportunities, stimulating aspirations for Hau Giang’s rapid and sustainable development.” The event was organized by Hau Giang Province People’s Committee, with the support from VietMode, ISC-Innovation Services Center, and the Saigon Times Foundation.

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