for good causes.

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Sai Gon's familiar and vivid images are depicted beautifully through sketches of Nguyen Tang Quang and friends. Photos courtesy of Nguyen Tang Quang

Project founder, artist and architect Nguyen Tang Quang misses the real Sai Gon, a city of fascinating culture that is dynamic and open-minded, kind, energetic and proud of its people.

"Entering another period of social distancing, Sai Gon (the former name of HCM City) once again has slowly transformed into its unusual offbeat self, with rare images of empty streets and the lack of hustle and bustle in daily life," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"This feeling, so vast yet nebulous, comes from observing the lessened traffic, the missing crowd on the streets and the absence of common activities among the humble working people busy going about their business up and down the streets of Sai Gon.”

He said the outbreak had taken a heavy toll on businesses on the streets, with many find themselves suddenly without a job. If it keeps going on any longer, nobody will know whether the beautiful sight of Sai Gon working people roaming the busy streets will be seen ever again.

The artist wanted the next part of this sketching series to express gratitude toward all the doctors, nurses and soldiers who are in a fight to the finish with the coronavirus.

Quang shared his idea of drawing the city on his Facebook page and received great feedback. Many netizens, both friends and strangers, of different backgrounds and ages asked to join the project.

"They are 10-year-old kids, overseas students and retirees. We are not all painters or artists but really wanted to contribute with our free time. It was the first time that we cooperated with each other but things went smoothly because of our mutual special feelings for the city," Quang told Việt Nam News.

After nearly three weeks of hard work, a collection of more than 50 works titled Sài Gòn was born, depicting the daily life of normal working people.

There are portraits of aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, who work hard from dusk till dawn. There are vendors, shoe-shine boys, street barbers and xe om drivers. And there are street food sellers and hired workers. All the teeming life of the city seems to be captured in this series of art.

"I read an article about Mr Hieu who is poor but repairs bikes for free for people in need. It is said Saigonese are great people who are caring and sharing, and it is because of people like Hieu. His story moved me and I decided to draw him," Ngo Huynh Trong, who is from Tay Ninh Province and has lived in the southern metropolis for 14 years, told Việt Nam News.

"My characters are all the working poor that make up Sai Gon's typical features. Social distancing has seen such images disappear. I really hope the pandemic is quickly over and we will be back to normal soon."

Helping with four paintings in the collection, Bui Van Tien wanted to take part in the project because of its human meaning, showing the spirit of the people during difficult times. 

For Quang Nam Province-born Tien, images of vendors have long been part of his eight-year life in the city. 

"It holds memories since I was student. For the friends, people, routine life and everything that Sai Gon has given me, the city has become my second hometown. I really hope my contribution will be an encouragement to push my town to overcome the pandemic," he said.

Pham Phung Anh, based in Spain, also gave a hand with two drawings.


"I am a Hanoian but I love Sai Gon and several times had business trips in the city which treated me with great hospitality along with a busy but romantic atmosphere. I feel familiar with the city although I did not settle there. I believe that through art we can speak more than with words, spreading positive messages, love and belief in the city's recovery," Pham Phuong Anh told Việt Nam News.

Anh’s depicts a small cat, which is well taken care of by its owner. The two show their love for each other while ignoring many of the difficulties around them. Meanwhile the other painting is a beautiful and poetic image of Sai Gon which has been etched on her mind for years.

The amateur painters also created images of doctors and nurses who are in the frontline of the battle.

"I drew doctors in front of high rises, expressing idea of people sharing and healing as they pass through hard days. In the other picture I wanted to highlight the 'body inside but love outside' and drew an enlarged image of a doctor waving at smiling people inside their apartments. These are the interesting and sweet moments amid the pandemic," said Quang.

The collection, which has received strong praise, will be used to raise funds for Food Bank Vietnam, which provides thousands of meals per day to the southern city’s underprivileged, and Hope Foundation, which provides medical equipment for frontline heroes.

"They are beautiful and meaningful. It shows everything is still ok around here. I have never had this feeling, living in the heart of the city but missing it so much. Thank you for easing our nostalgia," netizen Thanh Khoa posted.

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Street shops and mobile food stalls are seen on every corner of the city.
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Barbers and hired workers take to the streets to earn their bread.
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A woman and her puppy on the way to earn money.
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The spirit of the 'body inside but love outside' is part of the collection.
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Doctors, police and soldiers are working hard to protect the city against the COVID-19 pandemic. 
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Streets are the working place of many people who lost their incomes but still care for others.
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Sai Gon is expected to recover soon. It is hoped these images will be seen again.
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An old woman in need is given food. Nguyen Tang Quang's project will also be used to raise funds to help people during the pandemic.

Source: Vietnam News

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