SE Asia ~ An Artists Palette (continued)

 The fishermen, women, and children who live in the floating villages along the Mekong Delta add vitality to those colors and shapes. Their conical hats protect them from the elements while they tend to daily chores and work. One family is stacking pineapples in an artistic way to lure prospective buyers as to its freshness and beauty, while another boat passes with mounds of hairy, red rambutan, a small cluster like fruit that reminds us of lychees. Heaps of water hyacinth and morning glory leave little room for a boatman to sit as he takes his produce to market.

Rice is the source of life in SE Asia. We observe a family making flat rice noodles, the main ingredient for making Pho Ga, the national soup that every man, woman and child starts the day with. Noodles, broth made from nuoc mam, a fermented fish sauce, fresh vegetables and a few pieces of shredded chicken.Another family makes sheets of rice paper for wrapping spring rolls. Made from a thin rice dough mixture it is ladled onto a cloth stretched over a large boiling pot suitable for steaming and when removed the wrapper is as thin as a finger nail. Intricate, woven bamboo racks of large circular rice disks dry in the sun behind the house and on the roof. The husks from the rice kernels lay in heaps to be used as fuel and shoveled into large fiery foundries for making bricks and clay pots. Rice is even popped in huge woks, eaten as a snack.


The palette becomes sensual and textural in Hoi An, a river town of French Colonial heritage. It is there where men and women get fitted for garments, be it a three piece suit or intricate evening dress which will be ready the next day. The trade shops work all night cutting and sewing from bolts of handmade silks. It is an explosion of colors, that only hours before, the buyer was selecting, a process of being wrapped in soft silk.

And next door is a gallery exhibition displaying the area’s artists depicting Asian life with their own interpretation and stroke of the brush, colorful, yet simple, effortless. Other paintings illustrate peasants in conical hats in the rice fields or the mud flats along the Mekong Delta. Renderings of Buddhist Monks sitting cross legged in a temple, either chanting or in meditation in their saffron robes contrast to the off white rice paper they are painted on. Paper that is handmade, often times by the very monks who are depicted.


The rainy season has just ended, and has left the earth with a vitality for sustaining crops and creating a vibrant and fervent landscape with its tall coconut palms. It was as if the artist decided there will be no brown in this picture because ragged dead fronds do not exist. Probably stripped and used as thatching. Stalks of green bananas hang in clumps at the many plantations and small home parcels that dot the Mekong. Just waiting to be picked and taken to market. Acacia trees are in full bloom with their yellow drooping flowers. Red and pink hibiscus, croton, oleander, alamanda, giant ixora and bougainvillea dot the landscape. Just like home. Most dwellings have flowers, be it a shanty, third floor apartment or a house boat on the Mekong. Beauty is everywhere.