Wednesday, 15 February 2017

POV: NYC's Asia Society & The Age of Ignorance

Readers and followers of The Travel Photographer blog are probably well aware of my immense disappointment at the inertia demonstrated by the Asia Society in NYC in acknowledging my letters suggesting it recognizes the Vietnamese Mother Goddess religion as an important event in this Asian nation.

As background; I had sent over the past 60+ days two letters to specific high-placed staff members highlighting that the indigenous Vietnamese Mother Goddesses religion (known as Đạo Mẫu) and its rituals (known as Hầu Đồng and/or Lên đồng) had been included on the UNESCO's List of Intangible Heritages, and urging the Asia Society to recognize this by organizing some sort of event at it New York City (or elsewhere) location.

However, there was no reply, no acknowledgment, no reaction of whatsoever nature emerging from the Asia Society. Not even a "thank you, but we are not interested" email or voice mail. And certainly no event or recognition of any sort was held...not even, a short post on its blog.

Mind you, the Asia Society claims that it "is the leading force in forging closer ties between Asia and the West through arts, education, policy and business"

I was bothered at the lack of civility of not responding to my obviously serious approach, which conveyed an important cultural happening in Vietnam...but finally, as seen above, I (60 days post fact) managed to get a terse acknowledgement from someone at Asia Society as a Facebook message. This came about after my many social media posts castigating it for its rudeness.

This three line response may have assuaged my discomfort at the absence of response from his/her employer, but what about the larger scheme of things?

I searched for the Asia Society's mentions of Vietnam on its website, and found precious little. But I did find some Vietnamese trinkets for sale in its shop, but little else. That's outrageous.

Here's another stunning example of its obliviousness: the ancient art of Ca trù, a genre of chamber music featuring female vocalists, with origins in northern Vietnam, and recognized by UNESCO in 2009 as a Vietnamese Intangible Heritage, is not mentioned anywhere by the Asia Society. That's ridiculous.

In contrast, a Japanese musical group known as the Hougaku Quartet is scheduled with great fanfare to perform at the Asia Society this week. So it is receptive to Japanese arts and music but not Vietnam's?

I am really at a loss to comprehend its demonstrable lack of interest in Vietnam's cultural vibrancy. Does its staff know anything about Vietnam? India, China, Japan are all well covered...but what about this Asian country of 90 million people, with all its history and exquisite culture?

The ignorance is baffling.