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Comic artist offers surreal sketches of Ha Noi

 VietNamNet Bridge – Different sides of life in Ha Noi have been captured by young comic artist Nguyen Thanh Phong.

VietNamNet Bridge – Different sides of life in Ha Noi have been captured by young comic artist Nguyen Thanh Phong.

Bowl of fun: A comic strip about Viet Nam's signature food, pho.



The Ha Noi-based artist is one of a few selected from nine cities in Germany and Southeast Asia for City Tales, an on-going art project conducted by the Goethe Institute and its overseas branches.

The project has drawn together the works of artists from Bangkok, Berlin, Hamburg, Ha Noi, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, and Singapore.

Since May, the artists have created their comic approaches to art responding to specific monthly themes provided by the Goethe Institute.

Born and raised in the capital, the Vietnamese artist said he found it challenging to decide on how to respond to the monthly topics.

"It is not easy to select one interesting story from a 1,000 to support each theme," said the 26-year-old artist.

Interested in experimental comic art, such as narrative portraits and autobiographies, Phong demonstrates the Vietnamese lifestyle in modern life, and how people adapt traditional lifestyles to the modern age.

In the debut series, which follows the theme This Is My City, Ha Noi is personified as a beautiful lady.

Ignoring seductive temptations and flirtations from many men representing different forces who tried to dominate, the woman maintains her beauty and charms for more than a millennium.

Caption for the comics is: "Her birth name was Thang Long (Rising Dragon) – a very hot girl for whom there's an unceasing desire, even when she becomes an old woman, she never runs out of innocence. On her 1,000th birthday, she still looks young and hot, even though the make-up is a little overdone by over-enthusiastic professionals."

The debut series include also comics about Kim Quy, the Sword Lake turtle, an iconic resident of Ha Noi.

His next story Soccer, The Global Sport also mentions the turtle, who always knows what is happening in the city whenever woken up. "I know that Viet Nam has just won a football match (Southeast Asia league, of course!)."

The artist also depicts the sudden lift in Hanoian people's attitudes whenever their team wins.

"Football helps people to temporarily forget the burdens of life. Football also helps people to be more tolerant than usual," the caption notes.

The turtle is once again the main subject in People and Animals in Town.

While the legendary Sword Lake turtle has a spiritual meaning for Hanoian people and receives huge attention from scientists, environmentalists and the media, fellow creatures all end up on the Vietnamese dinner table.

Viet Nam's signature food, pho, is the main topic responding to the theme Kitchen and Restaurant.

Alongside a comic depicting main ingredients of the Viet Nam's most popular noodle, Phong also gives a brief introduction to the dish.

"Originally pho was only served with well-cooked beef. Later on, it was acceptably served with rare-cooked beef and chicken. Experiments with other types of meat did not work out."

The great passion of Hanoians for the dish is also depicted, including the rude attitude of vendors.

"In addition to pho, yelling at customers is also a ‘speciality' of Ha Noi," the comic concludes.

All the completed comics by Phong as well as by other eight artists can be found at blog.goethe.de/CityTales. The City Tales project will last until next April.

VietNamNet/VNS

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