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Elderly man beautifies Ho Chi Minh City alleys with murals

Tuesday, January 15, 2019, 09:04 GMT+7
Elderly man beautifies Ho Chi Minh City alleys with murals
Nguyen Van Minh paints the wall of a road in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A senior citizen has single-handedly given a mural facelift to multiple alley walls in Ho Chi Minh City during the past four years and his paintings have yielded positive changes.

Nguyen Van Minh is usually seen carrying a wooden ladder, paint container and brush on a bicycle along alleys in the city.

Many of the murals the 76-year-old artist paints on the alley walls depict the scenic landscape in the tourist city of Da Lat, located in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where he used to live in his teenage years.

Nguyen Van Minh walks his bicycle in front of an alley wall he painted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Van Minh walks his bicycle in front of an alley wall he painted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Van Minh paints the wall of a road in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Van Minh paints the wall of a road in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The artworks are an outlet for the nostalgia he felt for the highland city.

Minh spent a year learning painting there with a teacher who highly praised his artistic skill.

But at 20, he left Da Lat for Ho Chi Minh City to make a living and gave up painting as a result.

He had a chance to exhibit his painting gift four years ago when he was wandering aimlessly at night due to trouble having a sleep.

He noticed the dirty wall of a coffee shop and took it upon himself to make a mural on it when the street was empty of people.

“I was worried during the night that the painting would spark anger from the restaurateur,” Minh said.

But in the morning he breathed a sigh of relief to find that it was publicly praised for its beauty.

“Everyone was taken aback to discover Minh did it. They told him to feel free to paint there,” the owner recalled.

He then created murals for an alley where he has lived and neighboring ones – an action the local government has also supported.

Nguyen Van Minh (standing) admires his first wall painting, created over three years ago in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Van Minh (standing) admires his first wall painting, created over three years ago in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A man looks at a mural made by Nguyen Van Minh on an alley wall in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A man looks at a mural made by Nguyen Van Minh on an alley wall in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Minh said residents have no longer littered the decorated alleys as they used to.

He welcomed visits from U.S. and South Korean journalists asking about his effort and is happy to talk with people who come to his home to give paint.

Many of his works feature phrases about life, including ‘Wealth is not happiness, but happiness is wealth,’ ‘Surmount adversity to live,’ and ‘There’s a place to return called home. There’re people you love called family. There’s happiness if you have both.’

He hopes the painting of alley walls would deter attempts to stick leaflets onto them – a common sight in the southern metropolis.

He paints murals typically at night when he feels most comfortable in brisk winds and the absence of passers-by.

A student looks at a mural made by Nguyen Van Minh along an alley in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A student looks at a mural made by Nguyen Van Minh along an alley in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Van Minh rides his bicycle in front of an alley wall he painted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Van Minh rides his bicycle in front of an alley wall he painted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

He is also able to play several musical instruments and teaches martial arts to orphans in the afternoon in the city’s District 4, where he lives.

Minh has latterly completed murals about the Lunar New Year in the district.

A local resident, Nguyen Van Thuan, said they promise to enliven the space in front of his house during the largest public holiday, which begins in early February.

Another local, Ho Thi Tuoi, said the works arouse a desire for an early family reunion during the Lunar New Year festival, also known as Tet in Vietnamese.

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Thai Xuan / Tuoi Tre News

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