Tattoos with an understanding touch
Beyond just expressing someone’s personality or marking a milestone in life, the tattoos of artist Tran Thi Bich Ngoc transform scars into works of art.
A graduate of the Faculty of Art Design at the University of Theatre and Cinema, Ngoc, born in 1993 in Hanoi, surprised friends and family when she decided to take on a career as a tattoo artist.
“It really was a blessing. I first became attracted to tattoos when I was in high school, about ten years ago,” she said.
“I had no real sense of what they were or how to do them, as they weren’t that common in Vietnam. But I searched around on the internet and looked discreetly yet curiously whenever I saw someone who had a tattoo. But I didn’t share my interest with anyone.”
At college, she immersed herself in the artistic environment and made friends who did likewise, and they were able to share each other’s passions and hobbies.
“One of my best friends at college was also keen on tattoos. One day, she called me over and showed me a tattoo machine. We began practising on faux leather and pig skin. She kept a leather sofa she had covered with tattoos. Over time, I became a tattoo artist, but my friend didn’t,” Ngoc recalled.
“When I started tattooing, at the age of 18 or 19, I trialled different types because I was just so happy to have a customer,” she said.
“From that, I began to understand what my passion was. When I drew tattoos to cover scars, people began to see me as a professional artist. I was happy, because almost no one at that time specialised in covering scars with tattoos, as it was new and quite difficult.
“The first time I looked at big scars and considered what to do, their strange shapes made me a little anxious. But I didn’t want to disappoint the customer, so tried to find a way to make it work. Gradually, I began to understand the nature of scar tissue and could always come up with a layout and image.”
“More people came to me after seeing that I could cover large scars with beautiful tattoos. They believed I could transform their scars into works of art.”
To master the art, Ngoc had to learn a great deal.
“Every tattoo is still a challenge, because no two scars are alike,” she said.
“I did a lot of research on the different types of scars and the time needed for tattooing. I also have to make sure that the tattoo looks natural, so that people won’t realise it’s covering up a scar.”
Ngoc’s magical hands have turned many unsightly scars into beautiful imagery, and her customers are no longer haunted by the memory.
Accountant Truong Thi Thu recalled her own painful experience. “I went to Sam Son Beach in May 2018 with some colleagues and was stung by a jellyfish,” she said.
“I was in hospital for 10 days having the wound treated. Six months after that, I had an anti-keloids injection to treat the scar. The wound left a big scar on my leg. I lost my confidence. I used to wear short skirts, but not since the scar.
“I started thinking about getting a tattoo, because the skin was never going to be like it once was. I saw the ‘tattoo magician’, Ngoc, on TV, so found her number and, after meeting her, decided to go ahead. I feel so confident now I have the tattoo. It feels like the scar has disappeared.”
Feedback from customers encouraged Ngoc to pursue a career as a tattoo specialist.
“The greatest reward for me is seeing the feedback on my work,” she said.
“I feel so happy when they send me messages later on, saying they have a new life and are no longer obsessed by the scars. They believe their bodies have been adorned with works of art.
“Tattoos don’t bring luck or good fortune, but they have a spiritual value for those who have them and they give off positive energy. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and sometimes feel worn out by it all. But every time I receive a message of thanks from a customer, it’s like a ‘moral gift’ that gives me strength to pursue this path into the future.”
SEA Games torch carried through streets of Hà Nội
HÀ NỘI – Excitement filled the air as the 32nd SEA Games and 12th ParaGames torch made its way through the streets of Hà Nội on the morning of March 24 at the start of its ASEAN tour ahead of the highly anticipated regional sports event in May.
Brimming with symbolism, the torch was ceremoniously lit from a small lamp that had landed on Việt Nam’s soil two days prior, and had been carefully guarded at the Cambodian Embassy.
Witnessed by Cambodian and Vietnamese leaders, sports officials, as well as hundreds of athletes and local people, the lighting of the torch was a powerful reminder of the unity and spirit of the ASEAN community.
In a stirring speech, Cambodian ambassador Chea Kimtha expressed his gratitude to the Vietnamese Government, the Việt Nam Olympic Committee, and all other agencies involved for their support and tireless efforts in organising the torch relay.
She said the torch relay ceremony showed the good relationship between the two countries and the traditional friendship that had been built up and maintained for a long time.
“SEA Games is considered a major festival for Southeast Asian countries,” said Đặng Hà Việt, director of the Việt Nam Sports Administration. “Cambodia and other countries organised many activities to respond to and celebrate the SEA Games and ParaGames.”
“Việt Nam is the first leg of the 32nd SEA Games torch relay after the host country. I want to reaffirm that Việt Nam will always support with utmost effort for successfully organising the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia.”
Runner Nguyễn Thị Huyền carried the torch under the escort of 200 athletes, guests, and thousands of residents.
The relay started from the embassy office to the streets of Quang Trung, Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục Square, to Hàng Trống, Bà Triệu, Lý Thường Kiệt and returns to the embassy.
The torch will leave Việt Nam tomorrow to visit Manila, the Philippines, before touring Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Jakarta (Indonesia), Dili (Timor Leste), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Yangon and Naypyidaw (Myanmar) and Vientiane (Laos) on April 25.
It will arrive in Cambodia on April 27 and travel around the country until May 5.
The SEA Games will be held on May 5-17 in Phnom Penh and four other localities. The ParaGames will run from June 3-9, mainly in Phnom Penh. VNS
SEA Games torch to tour Hà Nội
HÀ NỘI — The 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games torch will be carried around Hà Nội, the first stop in its tour of 10 ASEAN countries, on March 24.
The torch, escorted by nine members of the Cambodian delegation, arrived in the capital city on March 22, and was warmly welcomed by leaders of the Việt Nam Sports Administration.
The torch is 75cm tall and weighs 1kg. It is designed following the shape of the Romdoul, Cambodia’s national flower.
The torch relay stands for solidarity, friendship, and good cooperation among nations in the region.
Earlier, King Norodom Sihamoni presided over a torch lighting ceremony on March 21 at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, marking the start of the torch relay.
This year, the SEA Games flame was ignited by the rays of the sun on the roof of the sacred temple. The ceremony was timed to coincide with the equinox, when the sun crossed the plane of the earth’s equator and day and night are of equal length. At that time the sun rose exactly on the top of the main temple of Angkor Wat. And the flame was lit up and was considered a sacred fire.
King Sihamoni then passed the torch to nine well-known Cambodian athletes, including two SEA Games gold medalists, to run around the temple area before it travelled to Việt Nam the next day.
Speaking about the event, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Tourism and Special Envoy of the Cambodian SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games Organising Committees Hor Sarun said it was the first time that the kingdom hosted the regional sports meet. Apart from the competition, the torch relay was an indispensable part of the Games.
He said Cambodia especially cared about the torch relay organisation sending the torch to all 10 countries with a view to widely popularise the 32nd SEA Games to all people.
In Hà Nội, the relay will be kicked off at 9am. National runner Nguyễn Thị Huyền will take the honour to hold the torch, escorted by 10 other outstanding athletes and hundreds of other people and guests. The delegation will start from the Cambodian Embassy and go through different streets in Hà Nội before returning to the embassy.
The next stop of the torch will be the Philippines, followed by Brunei, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and Laos, before returning to Cambodia on April 27.
The SEA Games will be held on May 5-17 in four localities with opening and closing ceremonies at the Morodok Techo Stadium in Phnom Penh. It will be followed by the 12th ASEAN Para Games on June 3-9. VNS
Fantasy literature struggles to find readers
The world of fantasy literature has seen amazing works such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Twilight, but experts say very few Vietnamese writers are interested in the genre, which is relatively new to them.
Seeing the vast potential for sales that promise many opportunities for fantasy writing talent to develop, some young writers have moved into the field and had initial success, but more efforts are needed to attract more readers.
“This market has been built before thanks to many world-famous fantasy books imported, translated and published in Việt Nam. It is from this background that readers started to pay attention to Vietnamese fantasy works,” the Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper quoted Khúc Thị Hoa Phượng, director of Women’s Publishing House, as saying.
“However, the number of writers interested in this genre of literature in the country is unable to meet demand. The number of authors of the nineties generation, including those for fantasy, is still too small, and their works sporadic,” she said.
“It is our desire that fantasy writing will not only be expanded, but also attract writers with in-depth works. It means that the writers not only invest in a methodical one or two books, or a series of stories, but stick their whole life to writing them. By doing that, this new types of books will develop in a professional direction.”
Fantasy is a literary genre that opens up endless fiction with stories about the supernatural, magic or things only in the imagination. For the past 10 years, a limited number of young Vietnamese authors have boldly experimented with the style.
Among such writers are Nguyễn Nhật Ánh with the series Chuyện xứ Lang Biang (The Story of Lang Biang) and Phan Hồn Nhiên with Những Đôi Mắt Lạnh (Cold Eyes) and Chuỗi hạt Azoth (Azoth Beads).
Some fantasy books have won prizes for young writers, such as UREM – Người đang mơ (UREM -The Dreamer) and Yagon – Những Kẻ Vô Cảm (Yagon – the Emotionless) by Phạm Bá Diệp, and Người Ngủ Thuê (The Sleeper) by Nhật Phi.
Recently, Nguyễn Đình Tú, a writer specialising in detective novels, has also tried his hand at the fantasy genre with the novel Bãi Săn (Hunting Ground).
Publishers claim young readers have a taste for fantasy, so they have launched several writing contests to stir up interest and encourage authors to try the genre. But lift-off has been limited.
According to Phạm Bá Diệp, part of the reason is that there are not many veteran writers interested in fantasy, while the younger ones do not have much experience, and their writing skills are not strong enough.
Moreover, some publishers do not dare to risk investing in fantasy works, preferring love stories, which are seen as a safe bet, Diệp said.
Some publishers claim that not even professional writers in the country can meet the standards of a fantasy series that needs to be written in a long-form imaginative way with a logical, tight and clearly built universe.
Vietnamese fantasy literature
Vietnamese literature in the early 20th century saw many outstanding achievements in which fantasy writing flourished with authors and works such as Thế Lữ with Vàng và Máu (Gold and Blood); TchyA with Thần Hổ (God of Tiger) and Lan Khai with Truyện Đường Rừng (The Tale of Forest), which are among the best and earliest written fantasy books in modern Vietnamese literature.
The period was a significant era for the country’s modern literature, and fantasy at that time attracted great attention from readers and critics. In newspapers, fantasy stories were in instalments and much-welcomed by the public.
Speaking on a talk show held recently by the Kim Đồng Publishing House to highlight the beauty of Vietnamese fantasy literature, Nguyễn Thị Năm Hoàng, a literary expert, said fantasy was a reflection of reality.
“Literature always has its own explanation, making people more mature. Each fantasy writer of each period of time offers a unique experience. Lan Khai offers a story within a story. TchyA is a source of highly philosophical material, while Thế Lữ brings out the poetic beauty of the mountains and taking journeys. Each brings their own atmosphere, customs and traditions,” Hoàng said.
“Through the works we see magic and mysterious scenes, but they are also very real. Each work is a vivid and rich picture of nature.”
Meanwhile, writer Di Li said these works could most accurately be described as horror fantasy literature. According to Li, contemporary literature has lost its atmosphere because we no longer have “forests” to store the legends.
“People have destroyed the very places where legends are kept. In fantasy works by Thế Lữ, Lan Khai and TchyA, the writing style is a bit old but still attractive and lures readers. Fantasy literature has always been popular because it opens the imagination for readers to travel through the pages of a book,” he said.
“Readers are still looking forward to welcoming Vietnamese fantasy series that are more elaborately invested and attractive. However, the journey for fantasy books to find a stand and to conquer readers is still arduous and challenging.” VNS
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