Exploring the Culture and Traditions of Vietnam’s 54 Ethnic Minorities on Google Arts & Culture

Experience the vibrancy of Vietnam's ancient cultures at the virtual photo exhibition showcasing the country's ethnic diversity.

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The Google Arts & Culture online digital museum is currently hosting a special exhibition titled “Precious Heritage,” featuring two hundred photographs captured by renowned French photographer Réhahn. These captivating images showcase the traditional costumes of all fifty-four ethnic groups in Vietnam.

This portrait of a Red Dao woman was taken by Réhahn in Sapa, Vietnam’s northern province of Lao Cai.

The exhibition, organized into eight categories, offers a comprehensive exploration of the costumes and cultures of ethnic groups residing in various regions of Vietnam. Additionally, it highlights the art of indigo cloth dyeing, an integral part of the traditions practiced by ethnic communities in northern Vietnam.

Accompanied by captions written in Vietnamese, English, and French, the exhibition provides an in-depth understanding of the distinct characteristics, lifestyles, and customs associated with each ethnic group. This diverse cultural representation contributes to a greater appreciation and recognition of Vietnam’s rich heritage.

Over the span of nearly a decade, Réhahn embarked on an extensive journey to document all fifty-four of Vietnam’s officially recognized ethnic minorities. Through his travels to remote regions of the country, he captured the mesmerizing beauty of northern Vietnam and immersed himself in the traditional songs and rituals of the local ethnic groups.

One particular encounter that stood out to Réhahn was meeting the Si La people, whose costumes are adorned with silver coins believed to bring good fortune.

During his exploration of northern Vietnam, Réhahn encountered various other ethnic groups, including the Dao, Pu Peo, Khmu, and H’Mong. Each group possesses its own language, skills, and distinctive traditional attire. Notably, the textile traditions, particularly embroidery and ornamentation styles, serve as distinguishing factors.

The Precious Heritage exhibition helps visitors discover striking Vietnamese portraits, stories, and heirlooms found nowhere else in the world.

Describing his passion for capturing the essence of humanity, Réhahn shares, “Photography is an excuse to get closer to people and hear their stories. That’s how I started out as a photographer, just meeting people and taking the time to talk to them.”

Réhahn’s photographic journey extends beyond northern Vietnam, encompassing the central and southern regions. He dedicated countless years to immersing himself in ethnic minority communities that had minimal exposure to foreigners. Among these experiences, his encounter with the O Du people, Vietnam’s smallest ethnic group comprising only 376 individuals, holds a special place.

Born in 1979 in Bayeux, Normandy, France, Réhahn’s deep admiration for Vietnam and its culture prompted him to settle permanently in the coastal city of Hoi An. His love for travel and photography blossomed during his initial humanitarian mission to Vietnam with the French NGO Les Enfants du Vietnam.

To explore Réhahn’s exhibition, please visit: https://artsandculture.google.com/story/GgUB2ScwbuDp8g.

The final compilation of full-color portraits, showcasing tribal members adorned in traditional attire, along with artifacts, traditional crafts, and stories, is currently on display at the Precious Heritage Museum in Hoi An, Vietnam.