Status through art, not wildlife

11:06 | 23/09/2016
As many as 80 influential guests from the public and private sector attended a World Rhino Day art event opening on September 22 in Hanoi that promotes zero-tolerance towards illegal wildlife consumption and provides an alternative way to affirm prestige.

The event titled “Art & Your Social Status”, which is going to last three days, is held by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and DomDom - the Hub For Experimental Music and Art. The purpose is to show entrepreneurs and local communities that art is a powerful and responsible way to demonstrate social status. The event is packed with exciting activities and is expected to attract more than 900 visitors.

“Some Vietnamese are motivated to consume illegally traded and endangered wildlife in the belief it confers status, but around the world it is widely acknowledged that art is a real symbol to affirm ones social status and wealth,” said Madelon Willemsen, head of TRAFFIC in Vietnam. “This art exhibition is part of TRAFFIC’s strategy to reduce the demand for endangered wildlife such as rhino horn by promoting appreciation of beautiful artwork as a means to promote the wealth and sophistication of the influential and successful members of the Vietnamese society.”

During the opening of the art exhibition, guests enjoyed cocktails, canapés, and live music while meeting featured artists and networking with other esteemed individuals.  Curators guided the invited guests through the exhibit art pieces and provided information on how people can build up an art portfolio that displays wealth and status and at the same can provide the opportunity for a sound investment.

A silent auction will be held for the pieces on display throughout the three days. The second day will feature award-winning movies from Freeland’s Wildfest 2015. Marcus Manh Cuong Vu, the campaign manager of Wildfest 2015, will host a chat show. The third day of the exhibition will end with the announcement of the silent auction winners and a special orchestral performance from the Hanoi New Music Ensemble.

“As a reputable businessman and an active member of entrepreneurs associations, I will organise activities calling for people to join hands to participate in activities promoting zero-tolerance to consumption illegal wildlife trade,” said Nguyen Xuan Phu, ambassador of the Chi Initiative. “In particular, I will support Vietnam enterprises together with Sunhouse Group to integrate a zero-tolerance of wildlife crime into the business sector’s corporate social responsibility policies. This not only helps those businesses to avoid business risks but also improves their reputation and standing which are key to sustainable development”.

The overarching message of the Chi Initiative is that Vietnamese men succeed from their inner strength. This is a creative social communication campaign that was launched by TRAFFIC and Intelligentmedia, reflecting the idea that you gain prosperity from your inner strength, and invite hardship by using rhino horn.

The Chi initiative, launched in 2014 by TRAFFIC and Intelligentmedia with the aim to instill in wealthy Vietnamese men the habit of zero tolerance of consumption and trade of wildlife, has entered its second phase. Nguyen Xuan Phu, chairman of Sunhouse Group and ambassador of the initiative, talked to VIR’s Hong Anh about his plan to raise awareness of wildlife protection among businesspeople in Vietnam.

Why did you agree to become the ambassador for the Chi initiative?

Chi is a very creative public relations campaign built on the Vietnamese cultural concept of “Chi,” targeting the primary users of rhino horn, namely wealthy urban men between the ages of 35 and 55.

The overarching message of Chi drives the concept that success, masculinity, and good fortune come from an individual’s strength of character and cannot be found externally in a piece of horn. It encourages wealthy businessmen to demonstrate their Chi by pioneering corporate social responsibility and wildlife protection.

The new phase of Chi, launched in 2016, builds on this foundation, but suggests an even more powerful concept: “Vượng từ Chí, Lụi vì sừng,” which roughly translates to “Prosper through inner strength, invite hardship with rhino horn.” It continues to call on individual businessmen to lead their community and take a stand against the consumption of rhino horn in their personal lives and business networks.

With such aims, this campaign is very meaningful and beneficial to the community. It is suitable for us businesspeople and I’m very proud to join in as an ambassador.

What are your tasks as an ambassador?

As an active member of numerous business associations, such as the Hanoi Young Entrepreneurs Association and the Hanoi Small and Medium Enterprise Association, I hold events to cultivate in others a habit of zero tolerance towards consumption and trade of wildlife.

I will ask other companies to work with Sunhouse Group in promoting wildlife protection. The initiative does not only help businesses to avoid risks but also improves their reputation and standing which are key to sustainable development.

Wildlife protection is not only a responsibility of each individual but of the whole community. I hope you will join me in this meaningful campaign.

Do you think the Art & Your Social Status event is going to be an effective way to get the message across?

I think the event is very creative. It broadens participants’ awareness and is a way for businesspeople, artists, and the general public to once again commit to showing zero tolerance towards the consumption and trade of wildlife.

The event will propagate belief within the business community that sophistication is shown through the appreciation of art and not the consumption of rhino horn.

Through research on consumer behaviour, TRAFFIC and Intelligentmedia have identified how “conspicuous consumption” of threatened wildlife parts, such as rhino horn, is used in an attempt to confer social status. It is illegal under international and national laws and the demand for the products in Vietnam and Asia is driving a poaching crisis in Africa and threatens species like the rhinoceros with extinction.

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By By Hong Anh

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