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.

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

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

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.

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

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

Minh has mastered a whole host of fonts.

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

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.

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

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

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

VnExpress International