It is impossible to travel through Vietnam without bearing witness to the complicated history of the country. From the various outside influences that have made their way into the country’s architecture and cuisine to the traditions and ways of life that are so decidedly unique to each region.
The first time Réhahn journeyed to the Northern hill regions near Sapa, he was expecting to take photos of singular cascading landscapes but instead he found himself drawn to the people who lived there. First, he met the Red Dao and the Hmong tribes and was impressed by the beauty of their craftsmanship and the diversity of their culture. These early photos inspired the photographer to try to acquire more knowledge about the other groups in Vietnam and he was surprised to learn that far beyond the few tribes that are commonly listed in tourism brochures there are actually 54 succinct ethnic groups, many with little or no information available to the public.
The Decision To Document Vietnam’s Precious Heritage
For nearly a decade, from tribe to tribe, photograph to photograph, Réhahn has travelled hundreds of miles throughout Vietnam, taking his motorbike into places that are difficult to access. He has witnessed firsthand the complex diversity of these groups as well as their strong traditions in embroidery, fabric tinting, music and the arts.
The Precious Heritage project began as a way to document and share the cultural heritage and stories of each group as well as to preserve an example of their varied traditional costumes.
Réhahn officially completed his primary mission of documenting all 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam and numerous subgroups in September 2019.
The Living History Of Art
It’s important to understand that this project isn’t about recording facts and figures nor does Réhahn consider himself to be an ethnologist. Réhahn seeks to honor the living history of the people he meets through his art as well as creating, for the first time, a single location where the stories, photographs and traditional costumes of all 54 tribes will be represented.
Each trip is a journey into generational wisdom and the value of heritage.
He is grateful for the opportunity to enter into the lives of the people he meets, however briefly.
The Precious Heritage museum, located in the ancient town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of a collection of 100 photographs, 62 traditional wardrobe ensembles and spans 5 rooms and 500sqm. Most of the costumes were given to Réhahn by the chief of each village. The museum is completely free to the public as a way to honor and share that gift.