Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Crafting Vietnamese culture in Tò He workshop

Ngan Vu
First-Year Chloe Brees and First-Year Nguyen Hoang at To He Workshop by Vietnam Student Organization at the Brew on Nov. 30.

It was a calm and comforting atmosphere in the Brew on Thursday, Nov. 30, as the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) held its first ever workshop featuring Tò He, a popular and traditional toy from Vietnam. The workshop taught students about the history of Tò He in Vietnamese culture and allowed students the chance to make their very own Tò He creations from modeling clay. 

Senior Ly Nguyen, president of the VSA, said that Tò He holds a special place in her childhood and that the Vietnamese Student Association hopes to help preserve the long history of Tò He by hosting this workshop. 

“Nowadays, kids in Vietnam have more variety of toys to play with,” Nguyen said. “They no longer want a Tò He, so it is kinda sad seeing a tradition slowly being forgotten. That’s why it’s important for us to reserve and to introduce Tò He to our international friends.” 

Tò He has been a part of Vietnamese culture for hundreds of years, originally created as a way to help children visualize the characters in the stories told to them. In the modern day, it is common for these toys to be shaped as popular children’s figures such as cartoon characters, dinosaurs and Disney princesses as well as more traditional figurines like Chinese zodiac animals, folk tale characters and flowers. 

These toys are traditionally made from glutinous rice powder, dyed to create the different colors, and topped on bamboo stick.s They are sold primarily at festivals and special occasions such as Tết, the Lunar New Year. The trick to the creation of these treats is the dough, and it is a careful process to create a dough with just the right amount of stickiness for the formation of the Tò He figurines. 

First-Year Nhi Phan, an attendee of the workshop, said that it was a relaxing and calm environment where she was able to enjoy time with friends and take a trip down memory lane.

“Since I’m from Vietnam, it’s exciting to be able to do an activity that reminds me of home,” Phan said. “Making Tò He is hard, but I’m happy to be doing it here.”

Junior Hana Bui, PR Chair of the VSA, says that this year they hope to do more events that spread cultural awareness.

“Normally, we have big events where people can come in and have food, and we sell tickets,” Bui said. “But this year our executive board wanted to do a little more with spreading cultural awareness, and we wanted to have a workshop where people could come in for free so they can experience some of our culture.”

While the VSA does hold annual events throughout the year, the group hopes to host more small to large scale events this year to spread Vietnamese culture in the Augustana community as well as raise funding for poor children in Vietnam so that they might have the opportunities to go to school, eat a full meal everyday and sleep in a warm bed every night.

“Not only do we want to bring Vietnam to the world, but we want to bring the world to Vietnamese children,” Nguyen said.

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