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Saigon’s aging sign painter

An old bone setter carries on the tradition of hand-painting signs for Ho Chi Minh City businesses.

The hand-painted signs that once beckoned customers to businesses throughout Ho Chi Minh City have slowly given way to cheap, laser print banners. One old artist keeps the craft alive.

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Nguyen The Minh, 67, continues to paint out of a shop on An Duong Vuong Street, in Binh Tan District’s An Lac Ward.

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As a young student, he used to walk past a sign painting shop on Phan Dinh Phung Street and dream of doing the job.

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None of Minh’s three sons (or their kids) have any interest in continuing his work. The pay varies and a given job may pay hundreds or tens of U.S. dollars, depending on its size and scope.

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These days, Minh says he has an easier time finding discarded wood and sheet metal to paint on.

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Patience and goodwill are essential to his work; Minh says he never works when he feels rushed or angry.

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Minh has mastered a whole host of fonts.

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He measures and plots each sign carefully before picking up his paintbrush.

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It takes Minh one or two days to finish a banner. “I love this job partly because it gives me the feeling of freedom in creativity,” Minh said.

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His wife, Nguyen Thi Nhan, 62, often encourages him in his work by buying him paints and brushes.

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Minh moonlights as a bone setter, which helps cover his living costs.

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Minh, in a quiet moment at the end of the day.

VnExpress International