Communal house – Sacred space of the Bana people

12.4.9Bana Rong House at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology always attracts a large number of visitors. However, in the current trend of socio-economic development, under the impact of the market economy and complex social developments, communal houses and community cultural activities of ethnic groups in Kon Tum Tum is disappearing or changing in many different directions. This has, is and will make many people who love and study Central Highlands culture, as well as the Bana people, think and worry.

Elder A Wer of the Bana ethnic group, Kon Rbang village, Vinh Quang commune, Kon Tum city (Kon Tum province), said: For the Bana people, communal houses are very important. According to the beliefs of the Bana people, if a village does not have a communal house, it is a women’s village. The communal house in the opinion of the Bana people is a sacred space, only boys aged 14 and over can sleep overnight in the communal house. As a son of Bana, everyone must know how to play gongs and build communal houses, so the construction of communal houses in Kon Rbang has existed for a long time. “In 1930, Kon Rbang villagers started building the first communal house, but that communal house was smaller than the current communal house. In those days, building a communal house was very difficult due to people’s lack of experience. The house was small with a usable area of ​​only about 25 m2, length 9 m, width 3.5 m, middle space 4 m 30 cm, width 10 m high from ground to roof. By 1940, when the population grew, facing the essential needs of life and village meetings, village elders and village chiefs met to discuss the need to build larger communal houses” – Gia A Wer shared.

Mr. Bui Ngoc Quang, staff of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, said: The communal house is the common house, the sacred space of the Bana ethnic community. People in the Central Highlands have polytheistic beliefs. They believe that everything is always controlled by Yang (Heaven). In communal houses, there is also Yang uncle residing, so they take care of communal houses as if they were their own houses. The communal house is also the place where all spiritual and religious activities take place, and is a place for community activities, demonstrating the strength of the community. The Bana people believe: Wherever the communal house is bigger, taller, and more beautiful, it is a rich and prosperous village. It is the place where the daily activities of the people take place, so the communal house is always chosen by young people in the hamlet and village as a place to exchange, practice playing gongs, drums, sleeping at night, knitting… This is also the place where festivals take place. Collective cultural activities, a place for young people to protect villages and hamlets.

After many years of living and working in the Central Highlands, Mr. Bui Ngoc Quang has surveyed many communal houses of the people. According to Mr. Quang, in the 1980s and earlier, in Kon Tum hamlets and villages, many communal houses were built, but now communal houses are gradually disappearing. According to incomplete statistics of Kon Tum province, in 1999 the number of community communal houses in hamlets and villages was only 300, of which very few houses were still usable, because they were seriously degraded. The reason is that people’s awareness has changed, they no longer believe too much in religion. People’s awareness and the government’s lack of emphasis on protecting cultural institutions, combined with urbanization factors, have changed the appearance of villages and hamlets.

The process of dispersing people, separating households, and establishing gardens to build houses takes place a lot, so there are no longer large areas to build communal houses in the community. Especially the intervention of local authorities: There is little investment and when investing in building communal houses, it is imposing, many communal houses are made of cement, no longer traditional. The physical structure of communal houses has changed a lot, now only 40% of communal houses are made of thatch, bamboo, bamboo, and leaves; 60% of communal houses are made of concrete, with corrugated iron roofs and they have turned into halls, the tradition of the sacred space is gradually disappearing. On the other hand, finding raw materials such as thatch, bamboo, and wood to build traditional communal houses is difficult, so communal houses in the Central Highlands are gradually decreasing.

From this reality, it shows that preserving the traditional culture of Tay Nguyen communal houses is necessary. The construction of the communal house of the Bana people at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology will help people of all ethnic groups better understand the necessity of preserving and preserving traditional national culture.

Article and photo: Nguyen Viet Ton

According to News Newspaper

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