Each issue you'll have the sights, sounds, and stories of our state...
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Folklife Flashes
July 2015

Celebrate our state's folklife and traditions!

Celebrating Vietnamese cultures in NC 

The term "The New South" used to refer to the southern states from after the Civil War until about 1900. Increasingly we use it to mean the increasingly diverse South we live in today, as well as a new understanding of the South and its complicated history and landscape. (See for example, New South, a journal from Georgia State University, and the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte.) 

Too often newer residents of this "New South" are referred to with umbrella terms like "Latino" or "Asian," which inhibits true appreciation of each community's traditions and identity. So we are taking this whole issue to celebrate the diverse Vietnamese cultures in North Carolina. Trust us that we are only scratching the surface, and we hope you will explore further. Enjoy!   
--Joy M. Salyers, Executive Director



Video of Dock Rmah from 2009 Community Folklife Documentation Institute

"Of course I want to keep Montagnard songs together," 1996 NC Heritage Award winner Dock Rmah says, "not just for me, [but] for my people." His people are "Jarai," one of the many traditional ethnic groups that have lived in the mountainous regions of central Vietnam since ancient times.

The French, who occupied Vietnam for nearly a century, referred to them all simply as "Montagnards"-- mountaineers. Those who banded together as resistance fighters after American ground forces withdrew from Vietnam in 1973 called themselves "Dega," combining names of mythic heroes they held in common. Dock Rmah, like other Dega, left Vietnam in the early 1980s for sanctuary in Thailand and for eventual resettlement in the United States in 1986.

Learn more about Dock Rmah's life, music, and work in Greensboro from the North Carolina Arts Council...

You Might Want To Know About...

  • The Vietnamese government recognizes 54 distinct ethnic groups, "each with its own language, lifestyle, and cultural heritage." Learn more about this multiethnic country here.
  • Test yourself: can find Vietnam on this map?
  • The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and China. The Hmong Studies Journal has compiled an amazing online bibliography that includes Hmong folklife and culture.
  • Although the 8th largest ethnic group in Vietnam, most of the 15,000 Hmong in North Carolina came from Laos. Learn more about their culture in this presentation and read about Hmong folklife in the Uwharries region in this NC Folk report
  • NC is home to the largest population of Montagnards in the US, in Charlotte, Raleigh, and especially Greensboro. Learn about Betsy Renfrew's work with the Backstrap Weavers, then check out the new This Is My Home Now documentary
  • The largest ethnic group in Vietnam is Viet, or Kinh. The Vietnamese-American population in NC tripled between 1990 and 2002 as people moved here to participate in the New South's growing economy.
  • Food - Tet (New Year's) Festivals are held in Charlotte, Raleigh; Van Loi and Fanta City in Greensboro.

Video: Montagnard Music and Dance


The 2013 North Carolina Folklife Festival featured performances and demonstrations from traditional artists from all over in celebration of our state's rich culture and diverse population, including the Montagnards. This video of traditional Montagnard dancers was shot at Carrboro Elementary School. 


Connect With Us


by Anna Scott 

Linda Pham and her son Thanh (or “T” for short) moved to Whiteville, North Carolina from Da Nang on the south central coast of Vietnam almost 20 years ago. She is now an owner of a successful nail business downtown. Pham is Buddhist and attends a temple in Wilmington. She cooks traditional Vietnamese food, usually on Sundays, her only day off of work, and cooks big meals for celebrating Chinese New Year, birthdays, and full moons. Continue reading...

Anna Scott NC Food post "Egg Rolls and Mi Quang
" from July 3, 2015.

Folklorist Evan Hatch with Noran Sanford of Growing Change in Scotland County, NC.  NC Folk is working with Growing Change on documentation training that will help the youth leadership team conduct interviews about the former prison site they are "flipping" into a farm.

Photo courtesy of the Montagnard Human Rights Organization. 

This month, we're switching it up and featuring a one-of-a -kind CD produced by the Montagnard Human Rights Organization, which supports the Montagnard community in the U.S. and Vietnam. This is the first professionally-produced recording of traditional Montagnard music performed in the United States. The CD features music from the five major Montagnard tribal groups: Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, Koho, and Mnong. Learn more...
Copyright © 2015 North Carolina Folklife Institute, All rights reserved.

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