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Student enlivens traditional theatre figures

Nguyen Duc Huy has his own way of arousing interest in Vietnamese 'hat boi' (classical opera) – painting 'hat boi' characters in a chibi style.

The characters are small and chubby, with stubby limbs and oversized heads to make them resemble children.

The collection of characters is part of the project Sai Gon Hi Vien, featuring 'hat boi' figures like Khuong Linh Ta, Moc Que Anh and Than Nu, along with unique ’hat boi’ masks.

Nguyen Duc Huy, traditional theatre figures, Hat boi, classical opera, chibi style, Sai Gon Hi Vien project

Chibi hat boi figures by Nguyen Duc Huy perform on a miniature stage.

From a young age, Huy was interested in studying the traditional arts of southern Vietnam, and ’hat boi’ was one of them.

The more he learned about 'hat boi' from the internet and books, the more he realised it was in danger of being lost.

The idea of how to save the traditional art that used to be widely popular in the south obsessed the young man.

After graduating from high school, he decided to apply for the Faculty of Graphic Design at Ton Duc Thang University.

Huy said he could never become a 'hat boi' artist, but his gift for painting allowed him to enliven 'hat boi' characters.

At the end of the second term, each student had to choose a topic. While others chose modern styles, Huy chose music, specifically 'hat boi', and embarked on the Sai Gon Hi Vien project which aims to provide a new perspective on traditional theatre and bring it closer to the community.

Initially, the project included paintings of 12 'hat boi' characters like Khuong Linh Ta, Truong Phi and Ta On Dinh painted in chibi style with strong colours. Then Huy kept on studying and created more figures to enrich his collection.

Though painting on specialised graphic software – Adobe Illustrator, it took him three days to finish the Sai Gon Hi Vien project.

After university, Huy continued to study the art form on the internet, whilst visiting museums and talking with 'hat boi' artists to ask about the makeup, costumes and actions of each figure.

He also adds specific notes about each 'hat boi' figure to provide background information for viewers with little understanding of the traditional art.

To arouse interest in 'hat boi', viewers need to be able to recognise the figures, and distinguish them as good or bad characters and understand the implications of their acts.

“People love the beauty and the content. As long as they understand, they are naturally interested,” he said.

Nguyen Duc Huy, traditional theatre figures, Hat boi, classical opera, chibi style, Sai Gon Hi Vien project

Nguyen Duc Huy (second from right) creates Chibi 'hat boi' figures with the aim of attracting more youngsters to the traditional art form.

Huy also had the idea of putting his chibi characters on stage by creating miniature theatres in which they perform excerpts from plays.

Realising the meaning of the Sai Gon Hi Vien project, Huy’s teachers and friends have helped him to hold an exhibition. The project has succeeded beyond expectations by drawing attention from many people, particularly students.

That project has concluded, but there's more good news for the 21-year-old student because more organisations and individuals have commissioned posters from him and asked him to design stages for art events.

But that’s not the end to his idea to renew and popularise ’hat boi’. He is studying how to print his chibi paintings on packaging and labels, and he has established a facebook fanpage Dau An Sai Gon (Sai Gon Imprints). The page contains detailed notes about various art forms to prepare for the release of his book, Duong Vao ‘hat boi’ (Road to 'hat boi').

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Source: VNA

Nguyen Duc Huy, traditional theatre figures, Hat boi, classical opera, chibi style, Sai Gon Hi Vien project
 
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