Beads Display No Powers Here
I visited Vietnam this fall for about 3 weeks. Somewhat to my surprise, I didn’t get the eyes-wide-open response to the Czech cut glass beads I had brought with me.
Outside Da Nang, we visited a farming village. We went to a school. I had brought some loose Czech cut glass beads to give away. I handed some of the children some beads, and they were clueless. They at first thought they were food. I put one in each child’s hand, and held their hands up to the light. But nothing. No sense of excitement about the colors. No sense of the bead.
I met a grandmother with 2 grandchildren, and tried to give the grandmother a bead. Same thing – blank stare. Put the bead in her hand, and held her hand up to the light. Nothing. She tried to give it to her grandchild, but I told her it was for her. Such a different reaction to beads that I’ve found most other places.
I knew ahead of time that Vietnamese do not have a jewelry culture. They don’t wear jewelry, and haven’t in their past. They have few beads historically, and what beads have been found, were found in the Champa culture, which had originally settled the central part of the country.
But it is interesting that the Vietnamese sell strands of pearls and gemstones, as well as some beaded necklaces, to tourists. At two stores in Saigon, one in a market, and one more established boutique, both of which sold jewelry made with beads, I tried to have a conversation about beads. I drew pictures. I explained how stringing beads creates a necklace or bracelet. Blank looks. I showed them the beaded strands of pearls and gemstones they sell, and they see these as “necklaces”, not “strands of beads”. I showed one of them a bead-embellished scarf. This made the concept of “beads” a little clearer for her, but she still saw the piece holistically as decoratively embellished, rather than something made up of individual beads.