This photography collection by Xuan-Phong and ethnic
people is a representation of Dak R’Mang commune – the land of choice. In May, 2017, the group, Pioneers for the voice of Ethnic Minorities and iSEE
invited artists and ethnic communities to co-create various works of art through a residency and co-authoring program. 

Logo of the residency and co-authoring programThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

The residency and co-authoring program

The program was organized by the group, Pioneers for the Voice of Ethnic Minorities, together with the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE). Artists, creators, individuals who are interested in the cultural diversity of the Vietnamese nation were invited to stay in ethnic minority people's home. During the 30 days of May, 2017, they breathed the very same air and exchanged personal stories and viewpoints to create this collection.

Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Xuan-Phong

Xuan-Phong Le is a documentary photographer based in Hanoi, Vietnam. His approach to photography evolves from and focuses on the observations of human behavior in everyday life. Xuan-Phong’s current personal projects involve narratives inspired by the sentiments of himself and those close to him.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Inspiration

As economic migrants in Dak R'Mang, the Thai, Mong and Kinh ethnic people left their hometowns to explore a new life down different paths that led to new destinations. The collection was inspired by a multitude of people’s narratives in which were unspoken and unheard most of the time.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

A Hmong ethnic woman buys sweet soup at the weekly market. Because the majority of the population in the area is ethnic Hmong, the local government assigned a single acre plot of land to be used for a weekly Hmong traditional market where farmers and merchants can come every Sunday morning to trade their produce.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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Hmong ethnic youth gather outside the weekly market.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Hmong children playing by a tractor.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Hao Seo Lao tends the pepper plants in his newly acquired plot of land. Seo Lao migrated from Bac Ha to Dak Nong back in 2008 when he was only 16. Now at 25, Lao is a father of three and the head of a Hmong village in Dak R'Mang.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Hmong workers build a chapel. Most of the Hmong population in Dak R'Mang are Protestant.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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Seo Lao's family photos are kept inside a clear plastic bag.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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An abandoned bird cage outside Seo Lao's house.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Burned crops by the pass leading to Dak R'Mang, Village 4.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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Mrs. Ha, of Thai ethnicity, is one of the hosts of the group - here she is herding her cow back home before the rain comes.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Thai ethnic women in the middle of a farming group meeting. Thai ethnic settlers are considered the second most prominent in Dak R'Mang, only after the Hmong.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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An older Thai ethnic woman takes a look at a host's traditional weaving loom. The loom is the only one of its kind in Dak R'Mang. Due to the difficulty of life as settlers, many ethnic minority people chose to simplify or even abandon certain traditions "focus on making a living".

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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Thai ethnic people erect wooden frames for walls. For the Thai settlers in Dak R'Mang, construction of housing is a community effort. In the village in which we stayed, the owner of the house wouldn't have to hire workers, instead, he would call on his friends and siblings for assistance.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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Securing the wooden frame for the new house.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

The inside of a typical household in Dak R'Mang. Most Thai ethnic people in Dak R'Mang, when asked, said that they would prefer to make traditional stilt houses like the ones they had back in their hometown, but it's too much of a luxury for their current living conditions.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Mr. Quyen reminisces about life in his hometown, Thanh Hoa, after a family gathering. He told many stories about the traditions of the Thai ethnic people from his younger days.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Mr. Tinh plays the Khen. Traditionally, Thai ethnic people would gather to play their Khens and Flutes on only the most joyous of occasions such as the start of a new year or a friend or relative's wedding. Unfortunately, Mr. Tinh is the only one in his community who can play the Khen as he wasn’t able to pass down the art to his sons.

The land of choice, Xuan-Phong, 2017-06-16, From the collection of: The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)
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A bathroom at dusk.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

Cuong is the host's four year old grandson. His mom left Dak R'Mang to work for a factory in Binh Duong, so his grandparents take care of him in their home - he only sees his mom and dad a handful of times a year. While most of the settlers moved to Dak R'Mang due to the favourable conditions for agriculture development, not many of their children take in interest in becoming farmers. Instead, they prefer working as builders or factory workers in the Northern and Southern region, virtually creating yet another generation of ethnic minority settlers.

The land of choice (2017-06-16) by Xuan-PhongThe Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE)

The sky of Dak R'Mang on a clear night.

Credits: Story

Co-organizer: “The Pioneers for the voice of Ethnic Minorities” group.

Authors: Xuan-Phong and ethnic people in Dak R’Mang.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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