The person who carved the statue on the Kon Klor suspension bridge

Born and raised in the city. Kon Tum, Do Ngoc Bao (born 1976), the son of a poor farmer family who lives year-round as a gardener, was “endowed” with skillful hands that led him to the path of art. Dropping out of school in the eighth grade because his family was poor, Bao and his family struggled to make a living by the romantic Dak Bla river. And it was also in this place that Bao encountered the Central Highlands sculpture art with the perseverance and romantic soul of the artist who devoted himself on the path of creativity…

April 1, 2014Do Ngoc Bao with his art works at Kon Klor Hotel (Kon Tum City).

We found a small, shabby house on the bank of the Dak Bla River, not far from the foot of the Kon Klor suspension bridge. In a desolate alley with dense trees, Bao’s house seems to be in the middle of loneliness and loneliness. Seeing me coming, Bao’s wife – a skinny woman, holding her two-year-old son, her face smeared with dirt, came to the door and invited me into the house. Bao was away. While waiting for her to call Bao home, I observed Bao’s house. Besides the tattered sofa set missing chairs and the old stone table, a sagging bamboo cabinet near the corner of the house, and a television stained by time, there was absolutely nothing left. There are other values ​​present in this house.

About 10 minutes later, the sound of Win’s car exploded like a rice mill parked in the yard. A man about 38 years old walked in with an excited face. At first glance, I had feelings for Bao, perhaps Bao is an approachable and gentle person…

After finishing eighth grade, Do Ngoc Bao was forced to drop out of school because his family was too poor. Bao followed his parents and brothers and sisters who worked in the garden and went to the river to look for fish. Then Bao found the path of art as a natural opportunity. At the age of 22, while “wandering” on the banks of the Dak Bla River, he picked up two logs that had been washed in by the water. Bao took it home and tinkered with it himself. Using only a blunt machete and a flat six-iron, Bao carved two deer statues, so tall that a child could sit and ride them. Those two deer statues were sold by Bao for 60,000 VND. At that time, 60,000 VND was very valuable. Bao didn’t know what to spend, so he gave the money to his mother to run the market. I asked: “Where did you go to school to learn how to carve statues?” Bao smiled gently and replied: “I didn’t learn anywhere. At that time, I had an idea to sketch a deer, so I carved it according to that idea and turned it into a statue of a deer.”

Seeing that the deer statue was selling for money, Bao continued to go to the river to look for rotten logs that had drifted back, removing the outer part to get the inner core. Although these logs are rotten on the outside, they are all precious wood so the inner core is very hard and strong. Within a month, Bao continued to carve 7 statues of the life and activities of the Central Highlands people such as the statue of “sad sitting”, “mother carrying child”, “boat supporter”, each about 80cm high. Bao sold these statues for 300 thousand VND, extra money for his mother to cover the family expenses…

I don’t know who spread the rumor, but Bao’s “reputation” for his talent in sculpting statues was also carried by a good wind. Many people who love art and buy and sell statues come to place orders for him, including a Thai-Vietnamese trader who orders a few dozen statues from him at a time. Because of the large number of orders, Bao had to go to ethnic villages to buy logs of different shapes. If you want beautiful statues, you have to choose rotten logs floating in the river or tree stumps that have been dead for a long time. forest… The money from selling the Bao statue did not keep for himself but gave it all to his mother to take care of the family’s meals.

May 1, 2014

In 2009, Bao’s creative path reached its peak when traders came to place many orders and was also the time when flood number 9 brought many rotten logs of many different shapes to the Dak Bla river. Bao is free to find or buy them from people who collect them to make statues. Do Ngoc Bao calculated that in 2009 alone, he carved 45 different large and small statues such as “going cone” (carrying a hoe or machete to the fields), “hunting”, “carrying firewood”, “pounding rice”. “, “bathing children”, “festival”, “drinking wine”, “celebrating the communal house”… the tallest statue is about 1.5m, the lowest is also 80cm. Mr. Bao said that he also sold these 45 statues to a statue dealer named Ba for 16 million VND. Since then, “good news has spread far and wide”, Bao’s talent on the path of passion for art and sculpting in the Central Highlands has been rewarded. In the city. In Kon Tum, some people have hired Bao to sculpt statues based on products such as Mr. Manh on Nguyen Hue street, Mr. Giap (Adam and Eva cafe), for every statue about 80cm high or less, Bao is paid 250 VND. thousand dong/statue.

Bao confided: “Because I didn’t have the capital to open a facility, I went to work for someone else. Some days I was able to make 3 statues, continuing to work according to the employer’s needs, so one day my hand hurt and I had to put it on at night. ginger.” Do Ngoc Bao also added: In addition to sculpting statues, Bao also has the talent to create model communal houses, build stilt houses… in general, images that reflect the life, production labor, and culture of the people. ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands. Recently, in 2013, some hotels, such as Kon Klor Hotel, hired Bao to decorate the scenery outside the premises. Within a long month, Bao created 43 statues for this hotel including “celebrating the communal house”, “drinking can wine”, “pounding rice”, “sinus dance”… and decorative lanterns, with Price is 40 million VND. In addition, he also makes trash baskets, telephone tables, etc. from wild bamboo, but they are beautiful and sturdy, no different from other art objects.

Bao confided: “I don’t have capital, so everyone hires me to do whatever I want. Once I do it, I use all my ability to create, because it is my brainchild, because I consider my passion for art the main thing.”

During 16 years of pursuing his passion for creating Central Highlands cultural art, from the age of 22 to now 38 years old, Do Ngoc Bao has created nearly 1,000 large and small statues reflecting the cultural features of the Central Highlands people. But in the small house on the riverbank, the owner still cannot keep a beautiful statue for himself as a souvenir. Because all the statues he carved were sold, perhaps the rest were paintings that the shop owners criticized so he kept them as souvenirs…

After 16 years of sculpting statues, his only assets were a small shabby house, 3 young children (the oldest was only 8 years old) and constant illness. Bao sadly said: “I make a lot of money, but the money goes in the front door and then goes out the back door. The children are constantly sick, the second child just had surgery in the city. Ho Chi Minh just finished. Besides, my parents are old and sick, so I have the responsibility to take care of them too…”

While pursuing art, Bao also found himself a “successor”, he brought his knowledge and passion to teach the children in Kon Klor village (Thang Loi ward), but according to him, no one was passionate about it. passionate about and pursue his eldest brother’s profession. Bao said: “Even though my works are not statues of Central Highlands tombs, my works still bear more or less the imprint of Central Highlands culture. My biggest wish is to pass the profession on to future generations, but no one is passionate about it. I hope that in the future my children will follow and keep their father’s profession…”

Although there has not been any professional agency evaluating the artistry of Do Ngoc Bao’s statues, what are the fruits of Bao’s labor over the past 16 years with nearly 1,000 wooden statues in the Central Highlands? , is a remarkable artistic creation. His talent and passion for the artistic path – the Central Highlands folk culture path and his aspirations to reach the top on his creative path are true. I hope that Bao’s desires are like eagle wings reaching to the vast skies of the majestic mountains…

Article and photos: Duong Duc Nhuan

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