Tessa Bunney, Home Work, from PRIVATE 51 – Global Report 2, pp. 54-57[D]omestic labour in the suburbs and villages in and around Hanoi.
Between September 2006 and May 2008 I spent two six month periods in Vietnam, exploring the suburbs and villages in and around the capital city of Hanoi.
Around 75% of Vietnamese people currently live in the countryside, but as Vietnam moves increasingly towards urbanization, its agricultural workforce faces the prospect of losing its land and its way of life. With Vietnam’s growing population also making less land available for farmers to work, families unable to sustain themselves are turning to the creation of various products in rural areas. These ‘craft’ villages have become the meeting place between rural and urban, agriculture and industry.
Specializing in producing a single product, some craft villages date back historically hundreds of years originally relying on locally available resources, others have recently started as a way for farmers to earn a much needed extra income.
The flat landscape in the Red River Delta area isn’t particularly beautiful; the villages are functional rather than attractive. The traditional village house is typically single storey and consists of three rooms. The large central room is a multi purpose living and sleeping area as well as a place to work, and it is in this room where many of my images were taken, the mix of work and everyday objects fascinated me visually. Interspersed with images from daily life on the rice field and in the villages, these photographs depict ‘working from home’ in an unromanticised sense, where their subjects, mostly women, balance childcare with the routine work necessary for survival.
During the last decade, along with rapid national economic development many craft villages have increased production up to five fold through small-scale industrial development. However, the consequence of this shift is increased waste and environmental pollution with the resources of the landscape becoming overused.