A FEW MEMORIES OF LE BA DANGMay 9, 2018 Posted by Write about Le Ba Dang
To Nhuan Vy
Le Ba Dang is still very strong and lucid. A few years ago, my wife and I spent a few days with him at Lang Co Resort. In the morning, I felt rather bad about my health when I saw the 82-year-old man swimming in the sea like a fish. It could possibly be that because he was born and grew in a poor countryside, dried by the western winds from Laos; because he started off as a working soldier and was so poor that he did not have enough money to buy medicine for his first child during those harsh cold French winters, thanks to the drawing of the cat that saved his family or all of what he often drew, talked about, and created works of the grains of the village, the Giao Chi feet, the green garden, the leaves,…
“We have to do what the Western people don’t have, what is unique of our country.” And his creativity must always be accompanied by the payment that is worth of all his effort. Many people say that he is very wealthy because his paintings are sold around the world and are very valuable. I do not pay attention to and do not know of it. I only know that when he came back to the village in 1992, his whole village Bich La three days did not have to cook but they all came to eat at his house, invited by him and his wife. On that occasion, he put up paintings in the village, hung on the fence, hooked on the tree branches,… so that the village folks who had never visited the city could once in their lives see paintings. And everyone praised, “Dang is good indeed!” without question. He spent his own money building schools, clinics, and village roads. He built a small house that was fully equipped for making sample art designs there, right on his fatherland. In the inauguration ceremony of the building, it came as a surprise to me that he was able to turn a shaggy betel nut tree into a “hale-and-hearty” one after the land reclamation. He said, “My mom used to pick and eat its leaves,” then pointed to the blue round stones next to the tree, “and these used to make the stone columns of my old house. I’ll probably use them again!”
He spoke just like country folks, always claiming, “I am a countryside man”. His favorited foods came from his hometown village and were prepared in country folk way by his 70-year-old sister-in-law, revealing that “Nobody can cook better than her!” He also had concerns with the whole country. Not once had he confided to me:
“However much I helped Madam Binh’s front-line delegation during their negotiations, even receiving a medal and a merit certificate of green and red flags hanging outside the house that you can see; however much I tried to protect Uncle Ho during his visit to France in 1946, some people should keep on choosing to misunderstand me when I went back to the country after the national liberation…”
In response to the desire of the local artists, of those most knowledgeable in the government, and mostly of his own heart unfailingly dedicated to his fatherland, nevertheless, Le Ba Dang again came back to display his works of art and exhibit them right at Ho Chi Minh Museum by his choice during Hue Festival 2002 – 2004. On June 10th, 2006, the Le Ba Dang Art Centre opened at 15 Le Loi Street, and came to be known as one of the most beautiful buildings alongside Perfume River and one that Thua Thien Hue had rejected the previous proposal to establish the Cultural Centre of a developed country but wholeheartedly dedicated to Le Ba Dang. This is the very first art centre of an overseas Vietnamese in Vietnam, after Diem Phung Thi Art Gallery, but larger and grander. Le Ba Dang was given full authority to run the venue. At the opening ceremony, Le Ba Dang signed a donation to Thua Thien Hue people 108 works exhibited in the first phase of the establishment; he then forwarded hundreds of other masterpieces from Paris to expand the centre and in cooperation of the province, build a large cultural centre in the west of Hue during 2007 – 2008.