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What Is Hanoi to You? A New Art Competition Seeks Answers From Young Designers.

What is Hanoi to you? Is it the mesmerizing old architecture, the thousand-year legacy, the usual traffic craze, or a warm bowl of phở in the morning?

"Hà Nội Là..." is a new art competition that celebrates the city through the eyes of young Vietnamese. No matter who you are — a born-and-raised Hanoian, a short-term dweller, or someone who has never visited the city before — you are invited to fill in the rest of the sentence with your unique stories. What is Hanoi to you?

The art competition is a collaborative project between UNESCO, UN-Habitat, the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Art Studies (VICAS), and Vietnam Local Artist Group (VLAG). The project was established to encourage young artists to reinforce and celebrate UNESCO’s recognition of Hanoi as one of the world’s Creative Cities in 2019.

The competition is accepting submissions from August 6 to September 9. The judges are veteran artists and designers including Tú Na, Xuân Lam, Kawako Giang Nguyễn, Noh-a, and X.Lan, with Nguyễn Thành Phong serving as the advisor. The reward for first prize is VND10 million, along with art prints and postcards. More information on the competition and its requirements is available on the Hanoi Creative City official website.

For now, let us take a look at some of the submitted artworks!

‘Hà Nội trên lưng’ (Hanoi on the back). Medium: digital. Author Đức Trần shared on social media: “When I was little, Hanoi communicated with me through its tales in books, through the little alleys with walls that have faded through time. As I grow up, the heritage that has stuck with me through childhood still remains with me today.”

‘Trà đá — Hà Nội’ (Hanoi — Ice Tea). Medium: digital. Artist Đặng Thanh Cao shares on social media: "Hanoi is a busy, bustling place, but somewhere on the sidewalk and the alleys, people manage to find a place of peace. Somewhere they can sip on ice tea and smoke thuốc lào from pipes. The most humble refreshment stalls still exist today for their irreplicable vibes. This is the culture and identity of the city's dweller."

‘Hà Nội đêm mơ’ (A Hanoi Night's Dream). Medium: digital. Artist Quang Trí grew up in Nha Trang and had never visited Hanoi. Nonetheless, to him, Hanoi is “colorful and sentimental.” He shared: “I want to draw Hanoi as the heart, the invisible love that grew up with me through films and stories.”

‘Hà Nội là cô gái tuổi đôi mươi’ (Hanoi, a Woman in Her Twenties). Medium: digital. To artist Hà Trang, Hanoi is like a woman in her twenties — gentle, elegant, and youthful. She is ready for new challenges yet never ceases to value her heritage and traditions.

‘Hanoi by Night.’ Medium: digital. As he has never been to Hanoi, everything that artist Phat Haha knows about the capital is through a smartphone screen at the very end of each day. Through the social media posts he sees online, this is what he imagines the city to be.

‘Thương nhớ phở bò’ (Missing Phở Bò). Medium: digital. Artist Duy Thuận shared on social media, “Hanoi's phở, to a little boy with a runny nose who was fed a bowl of tái gầu from a young lady’s little stall hidden in a small alley on Láng Street, or to a grown-up man tired from the bustling capital city, still feels the same — beautiful and mesmerizing.”

‘Thang Long citadel.’ Medium: digital. Artist Đan Thư borrowed a line from one of poet Bà Huyện Thanh Quan's poems to describe her artwork: ”Lối xưa xe ngựa hồn thu thảo / Nền cũ lâu đài bóng tịch dương.”

‘Hanoi Collage.’ Through her artwork, artist Huyền Trân portrays the typical sounds of Hanoi: the sound of a train passing by its station, the calls of the street vendors, and more. To her, when you slow down a little, you may feel the morning fresh air whilst enjoying a cup of coffee on the makeshift stalls on the side of the road. All these make up an unmistakable feeling you only get in Hanoi.

‘Hồn Quê Giữa Lòng Thành Phố’ (A Snippet of the Countryside Amidst the City). Medium: digital. Illustrating a traditional image of a street vendor, artist TiếDu emphasizes a stark contrast between modern-day delivery apps and these humble vendors. He reminds us all to cherish this beautiful element of the city before they completely disappear in the near future.

‘Tập thể Cypher’ (Cypher neighborhood). Medium: digital. Drawn to old apartment complexes and their communities, artist Hien Tam recreated her observation of the beautiful, traditional remnants of past living arrangements blending in with lively modern times.

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