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Randomness, lack of curation cause bumpy ride for public art



The lack of collaboration between artists, urban planners and authorities has affected the quality and maintenance of emerging public artworks in the country.

In 2017 Tam Thanh fishing village in the central Quang Nam Province got a new look with colorful murals, and became a tourist magnet.

The success story has since inspired other similar projects in many cities and provinces across Vietnam. Public art has in fact been blooming in many cities and rural areas.

Hanoi is home to the world record ceramic road that runs almost 4,000 meters through four districts.

Recently a group of local and international artists created installations depicting various aspects of Vietnamese culture in Phuc Tan Ward, Hoan Kiem District.

These public artworks have made the area a cultural site and attract locals and tourists alike to what used to be a rundown place filled with garbage.

Murals on a wall of a high school in Hanoi, which caused controversy among art insiders since many of them think the paintings do not harmonize with the historic neighborhood. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Murals on a high school wall in Hanoi, which caused controversy since many art insiders think they do not suit the historic neighborhood. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Following in the footsteps of Tam Thanh village, neighboring Quang Ngai Province and Da Nang and Can Tho cities also have murals decorating many places.

Electrical boxes in cities are decorated with paintings of flowers, market scenes and bustling streets.

But ubiquitous by its absence is quality.

Saigon-based sculptor Nguyen Xuan Tien said many of the public artworks are not pretty. In fact, in the last few years people have been expressing concern over public murals, many of which are unseemly.

In 2017 Saigonese were aghast to see more than 500 electricity poles in District 11 covered in paintings of flowers that looked like they were “made by kindergarten children.”

There has also been a community backlash against animal statues that looked like “monsters” in the northern Hai Phong City and statues painted in garish colors in Hanoi’s Thong Nhat Park.

“Most of the artworks have no specific content or ideas, and their creators appear to have randomly done them,” Tran Khanh Chuong, artist and chairman of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association and the Hanoi Street Decoration Council, told local media.

Tien pointed out that public art in many parks is mostly about the 12 zodiac animals or historical figures, which do not help improve people’s aesthetic sense.

At a seminar on public art and tourism held in Hanoi on November 17, many experts expressed the fear these public artworks could negatively affect the community’s esthetic tastes.

Hanois ceramic road is made from ceramic tesserae from Bat Trang, famous for its centuries-old traditional pottery. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Hanoi’s ceramic road made from tesserae from Bat Trang, famous for its centuries-old traditional pottery. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

But even when public artworks are showcased communally, they face another issue: the risk of deterioration.

Hanoi’s iconic ceramic road has been vandalized. Some parts have become dilapidated, cracked and affected by smoke from people burning trash.

In 2019 an installation titled “Thap” (Tower) made from plastic with a maze inside inspired by the works of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian was removed from Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake after many visitors used it as a public toilet.

According to sculptor Mai Thu Van, who owned the art project, it was not the first time the public has vandalized her artwork.

Many experts agreed that managing public artworks is still a problem because people think that since these are meant for the public they do not need protection or maintenance.

But as the old saying goes, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business.”


The lack of collaboration between cultural, urban development and local authorities is the main factor hurting the development of public art, Phan Dang Son, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Architects, said.

Artists create works without caring much about urban planning and how their works could be harmonized with the surroundings, he pointed out.

Well-known art critic Pham Cam Thuong warned: “They (artists) should not think that merely putting paintings on a wall could make it more beautiful; they should consider carefully before creating artworks.”

Son agreed, saying artists and architects should work closely together to create more beautiful public spaces.

To keep these artworks living with the public, many art insiders suggest that citizens should have the right to express their ideas when it comes to deciding whether an artwork should be displayed or not.

Thuong said not seeking public opinion before commissioning public artworks is a shortcoming.

They are taxpayer-funded, so people should be able to decide the content, he added, saying related parties should also think before creating public artworks since they could directly affect the lives of nearby residents.

In Tam Thanh fishing village, many locals have given up their traditional fishing job and moved to other places after selling their land to outsiders, Thuong said. The newcomers rebuilt houses, damaging the murals on the walls and the local identity.

“At the end of the day, art may not benefit people if it makes them lose their village and culture.”



Hanoi woman runs business producing bags from plastic waste



Fashioning new from the old, a Vietnamese woman in Hanoi has established a business producing bags from recycled plastic and cloth, leaving behind no waste.

As a person having practiced eco-friendly lifestyle for several years, 35-year-old Do Dieu Linh has always prioritized canvas bags, cloth bags, and reusable personal containers, while restricting single-use plastic ones.

Linh has always wished to replace plastic bags that people often take from daily shopping with cloth or recycled plastic alternatives.

“Each shopper can reduce about 2,000 plastic bags every year if they use cloth or recycled plastic bags,” she estimated.

Linh was suggested by her friends to create cloth shopping bags in 2019, taking advantage of rags in the fabric production process in combination with waterproof materials that she collected.

At the beginning of the business, she contacted local printing houses to collect their faulty products made from hiflex — a loosely woven material from strips of polypropylene plastic also known as tarpaulin, including backdrops, banners, umbrellas, outdoor light boxes and billboards.

However, as the printing houses’ defective products were not of good quality, the woman started sourcing the material from agencies specializing in organizing events, fairs, and exhibitions.

So far, those agencies have become Linh’s ‘close suppliers.’

The collected plastic materials will then be cleaned and dried before merged with cloth and tailored and cut into sturdy, attractive bags.

“No words can describe my feelings when successfully transforming discarded materials into usable things,” Linh said.  

“It is the motivation for me to collect leftover plastic wherever I can.

“Sometimes I don’t see it as trash anymore, but more like a resource.

Along the run of her business under the brand Gaea, Linh produced and sold about 1,000 recycled-material bags at low prices to attract customers.

The business has also expanded to include 20 different products, such as passport and other personal document covers, headphone containers, and cup pads, which are put on sale at eco-friendly product stores across Hanoi.

It is estimated that after more than a year, the Gaea brand has recycled more than 10,000 square meters of hiflex material and produced over 5,000 products of all kinds to the market. 

Its production facility, which is located in northern Thai Binh Province, has also created jobs for several rural female tailors.

“I want to recycle until no more hiflex is released into the environment,” Linh said.

One of the challenges for Linh’s business is that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for her to source used plastic materials as fewer events are organized.

However, the businesswoman sees this as good luck.

“They don’t use tarpaulins anymore, so the amount of tarpaulin released into the environment has shrunk,” Linh said.

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How to plan and keep New Year resolutions



Psychologist Matthew Ryan. Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice

Matthew Ryan*

It is not too late to plan your New Year’s resolutions especially as Tết (Lunar New Year) is still approaching.

Last year my partner and I put two whole days aside to enter into a deep reflection on what we wanted to accomplish together and also as separate human beings in the new year.

The reason for deliberately carving out such a long time of preparation was our understanding that New Year’s resolutions as a general rule fall apart very soon after the beginning of the new year.

In fact, there have been many research studies conducted on this practice of making New Year’s resolutions and it seems that only about 8 per cent of them are ever successful in the long term.

Gym instructors have told me that there is always a huge influx of new members in January, but by February or March, there are very noticeably fewer new members working out regularly.

If you don’t give sufficient thought and time to making resolutions they will inevitably fail and this can cause all sorts of negative feelings such as self-disappointment, hopelessness regarding the possibility of change and a feeling of being out of control and directionless, to name a few.

So my partner and I put two days aside. You may not have the luxury of that amount of time or stamina but the point is you will be more than likely one of the 92 per cent who fail to implement their New Year’s resolutions if you don’t set aside some period of time of preparing.

I will outline my approach below.

First step: Meditation/reflection

If you immediately go into planning mode your ideas will most probably be warped by your anxieties and past regrets or experiences. Spend about 20 minutes meditating to clear your mind. By doing this you are also connecting with your inner wisdom and creativity.

Second step: Discovering your core values

After meditating, you now transfer your focus to the contemplation of your core values.

What are core values? Core values are the deepest guiding principles for your life – what you want to stand for; what you hope others see and appreciate about you. You know you have discovered a core value when you feel very excited or enthusiastic about some particular characteristic like standing up for the truth, the love of family and friends or the call of adventure and discovery.

So I invite you now to sit down and discover your own core values. Three to five core values are enough.

So ask yourself what activities bring you the most joy or what couldn’t you live without; what things/pursuits give your life meaning and purpose. The first two steps together provide a powerful meditative and inspirational foundation from which to now choose and develop action plans for your New Year’s resolutions.

Third step: Goals that express your core values

Having identified your core values or deep loves, you are now ready to select concrete goals that will ensure that the pregnant energy within your core values can flow into each goal you select.

So look at each of your core values and ask how you can practically bring into your life the energy of these values. Understandably, as a psychologist, one of my core values is the building of loving relationships.

So the practical question for me was, ‘How can I in the new year build deeper, more loving relationships?’

I divided my relationships into four main categories:

1. The intimate relationship with my partner.

2. The loving relationship with my children.

3. My close friendships.

4. My professional relationship with my clients.

So now I need to focus on the goal I have for each of these four categories.

Fourth step: Developing action plans to achieve chosen goals

Now that you have chosen goals that are the concrete expressions of your core values, you now need to devise detailed action plans that will help you as much as possible to achieve your goals. So I will continue to demonstrate this next step by developing an action plan for nourishing my intimate relationship with my partner. You need to develop action plans for each of the goals that you have chosen.

Good luck planning and keeping your New Year’s resolutions! – Family Medical Practice

*Matthew Ryan is a senior psychologist who has been supporting and assisting people to work through their personal and relational problems, for more than 30 years. As a couple’s and family psychologist, Matthew’s role is to help each person in the relationship see how they contribute to their dysfunctional ways of relating and what changes are necessary to resolve their difficulties. Matthew is also experienced in working with teenage males and females as they face the challenges of stepping into young adulthood. In addition, Matthew is experienced in providing counselling to people from the LGBT community.       

Family Medical Practice was the first foreign-owned primary healthcare provider in Việt Nam, and has consistently remained at the forefront of international-standard medicine since 1995. It offers extensive healthcare and emergency medical services nationwide to Vietnamese, expatriate and corporate customers.

For more advice on any medical topics, visit; or visit our clinics:

Family Medical Practice Hanoi on 298 I Kim Mã Street, Ba Đình District or call (024) 3843 0748. Email: [email protected]

FMP’s downtown HCM City location is at Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn Street, District 1; Other facilities are at: 95 Thảo Điền Street, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848. E: [email protected]

FMP Danang is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh Street, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E: [email protected]


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HCM City unveils proposed design for Tết Flower Street




Images of buffaloes will be put up at the entrance to the Flower Street from February 9 to 15 at Nguyễn Huệ Street, District 1. Photo courtesy of Saigontourist

HCM CITY — The HCM City administration has unveiled a draft design for the 18th annual Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street to celebrate the coming Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday.

Rural life featuring rice farming and buffaloes will be the theme for this year, the Year of the Buffalo, according to eastern zodiac.

Every year Nguyễn Huệ Street in District 1, which has a pedestrians-only square down its middle, transforms into a ‘flower street’ during Lunar New Year.

This year it will be open from February 9 to 15, with the decorations starting on January 25, according to the organisers.

Like in previous years environment-friendly materials will be used for the decorations.

According to organisers, the organic design and architecture this year would aim to send the message of environmental protection.

To usher in the Year of the Buffalo, most of the event’s concepts and decorations will pay homage to the animal, with 26 mascots being set up along the street.

The entrance will feature a family of movable buffaloes display.

The organisers said the street would have a more innovative layout than previous years, which would allow smoother traffic flow.

The annual flower show, which highlights the Tết culture, has become hugely popular and attracts more than a million visitors a year.

There are also other annual flower festivals and markets during the Lunar New Year.

There will be flower market in three major parks, September 23, Gia Định and Lê Văn Tám, while flowers will be sold at 174 spots across the city from February 4 to 11.

A flower market will be set up along Trần Xuân Soạn Street in District 7 from January 27 to February 11. —


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