That day, Phuong followed her brothers and sisters to the art class. Being much younger than they were, as she was two years old and wasn’t able to speak properly yet, Phuong only sat and played around. She had an adorable face with a neat and tidy dress accompanied by a pink diaper. Her nose was so runny that, on several occasions, others had to stop and wipe it out for her.
Phuong is the daughter of a widow. When she was born, all her relatives turned their back completely on her mother, even her oldest half-sister couldn’t believe that Phuong was born out of wedlock. Made desolate by the all the apathy, her mom soon enough fell into post-partum depression. 7 months ago, Phuong, an unclaimed child, was sent into the pagoda with no birth certificate.
Phuong seems very much interested in the workshop of artist An Nguyen and his introductory class to acrylics for all the orphanages. This class was organized by Espelune, a nonprofit that aims to bring art closer to the underprivileged.
At the very end of the class, Phuong picked up a draft paper, turned it over and began sketching her first drawing. She was only as tall as the surface of the table, so in order to fetch the acrylic, she really had to jump and reach in order to retrieve the palette. Red was the only color that she could reach, so her painting was solely in red.
Yes, Phuong, you are so lucky to be in this pagoda, a place that is filled with love. Unlike others, this pagoda is mostly built to provide convenient accommodation for all of you. It has buses that help taking all the orphans to school after one had an accident when he was travelling by himself to school (despite the fact that 10 years later the head monk could pay off the debts).
This pagoda is so amazing that they even have a pool in order to teach you guys how to swim, after a drowning incident in the past… The modern facilities of the pagoda sometimes turn philanthropists away from providing it with more aid. Mostly because they believe that charity should only meet the basic necessities for all its minors to safely develop.
In the meantime, 140 orphanages in the pagoda don’t just need food and clothes, they also need funding to pay off their tuition fees. What bothers the monks the most is how to provide you guys with a normal life that you don’t ever have to be ashamed of, -a life that doesn’t just originate out of infidelity and desolation.
There were some changes, the color palette was much closer to Phuong’s hand. The picture had another color, black. Looking at her innocent hands dotting the paintings with black, I felt uneasy as I know, one day, she will learn about her own identity...
As a coincidence, the picture only had two colors, red and black- which to me signifies that her faith was bound to pure luck, just as how people love or ignore this pagoda.
If most of the children here were born out of sheer accidents and were abandoned by their own parents, there would still be monks and the kindhearted who care about their well-being, or even their mental and physical development, like the organization Espelune. If there are men who are ready to run away from responsibilities, there would still be some like the artist An Nguyen who are ready to teach art for free for these kids... There might be indifference and apathy coming from the people who abandoned the errant women, but there will always be monks and so many others that are ready to welcome these kids.
Monk Lien Binh shared with me in melancholy, if back then wars led to orphanages, now it is caused by accidents from the modern love. But I believe those aren’t true love, because true love drives us to be much more responsible and caring for the result of those loves, the innocent child.
Social prejudices and the relatives reaction toward Phuong’s mom can’t make me help but wonder: Is the main problem love or is it our society who creates these victims?
I was lucky enough to witness many talented artist at their own work, but this painting gave me such special feelings. If Phuong wants to be an artist in the future, I hope she could see for herself a multicolored world that is much more than just the bilateral palette that has only the contradicting red and black.