2010 – 2011

A chance meeting between Sigbjørn Nedland of Nedland Kultur and Chi Ton at the Mela Festival in Oslo in 2009 led to a collaboration between the two to promote Vietnamese culture in Norway. Terje Vallestad at Cafe Sting joined the team, and the result was two festivals in Stavanger.

Chi Ton, festival organizer and cultural activist with her own cultural company, Kultur Chi, is a representative of the second generation of Vietnamese in Norway. This generation has grown up inside Norwegian society, but in addition to their Norwegian identity, they also carry the legacy of their parents’ Vietnamese origins. Many of the parents came to Norway as so called “boat refugees” after the Vietnamese war ended.

Chi and Sigbjørn met while Chi was working for the Mela Festival in Oslo, as band contact for Viet-Vo-Da-House, a Vietnamese group playing during the festival. Covering the festival for Norwegian radio, Sigbjørn heard their performance, and wanted an interview with the band for his radio show “Jungeltelegrafen”. To cut a long story short, Chi and Sigbjørn connected, and were soon sitting down exchanging views on the cultural presence in Norwegian society of the comparatively big group of Vietnamese people living in the country. 

The “silent” culture.

Agreeing that the Vietnamese culture was far too little known to Norwegians, even though so many people of Vietnamese origin live in the country, they decided to try to do something to focus on the Vietnamese culture in Norway. Few Norwegians outside the Vietnamese society had any access to Vietnamese culture. A certain animosity between today’s Vietnam and Vietnamese living in the diaspora was also a reality felt especially by the young generation of Vietnamese if they wanted to connect with the country of their family’s origin. A plan emerged to stage a small festival somewhere in Norway to celebrate Vietnamese culture.

Vietnamese societies in Norway showed to be generally skeptical to the idea, maybe fearing that too much focus would be put on today’s Vietnam, whose system and politics they often opposed. That led to a reluctance to engage with artists and cultural performers from Vietnam in the kind of socio-cultural meeting place that was a basic idea of the Vietnam festival.

In the Western Norwegian town of Stavanger, however, the Vietnamese society welcomed the idea, and supported the organization of a Vietnamese culture festival. Terje Vallestad, owner of Sting Café, a meeting place for many cultural activities in the town, became the third partner, and a festival program was developed, with support from several organisations and institutions in Stavanger, as well as financial support from the organization Fritt Ord, the Norwegian Cultural Council and local municipalities. The program included film screenings, art exhibitions, Vietnamese food served at Sting, concerts and debates. Guests were the group Viet-Vo-Da-House, who participated in a workshop and performed with the Norwegian musicians Ole Jørn Borun and Stein-Inge Brækhus, concerts with Tran Quang Hai & Bach Yen, participation by film makers Jenni Trang Le and Stephane Gauger, photo exhibition by Joachim Foss Rønning and more.

A second festival took place in 2011. The program included an open air photo exhibition in the town centre featuring  André Clemetsen’s impressions of Vietnam, and , Hung Pham’s impressions of Norway. Concert performances were by Stavanger’s own Norwegian-Vietnamese Anh Vu and her band, and the Vietnamese/Australian group Way Out West, and the film program included”Saigon Electric” and ”Fool for Love/Da Mai Tinh”. One of the more special features of the festival was the collaboration between graffiti and street artist Kim Stokke and designer and tattoo artist Thuy Dang.