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Illustration Series 'Phố Trong Hộp' Preserves Our Street Corners in a Tin Can

The cheeky illustration project “Phố Trong Hộp” (City in a Box) was conceived when its author Khánh Băng started merging Vietnam’s quaint street corners with some of the country’s most iconic FMCG products.

Each of these nooks and crannies, depicting a diverse range of quotidian moments, also has a connection with the products that house them, like a dairy parlor and a milk carton, a tailor shop and a Danisa tin, a fishmonger and a packet of cat food, or a noodle shop inside a box of Hảo Hảo instant noodles.

Danisa cookies.

This simple but adorable thematic progression might bring a chuckle to your day, as these scenes serve as a nostalgic reminder of neighborhood corners and kitchen staples that have grown up with generations of Vietnamese.

This inspiration has helped Băng create a “City in a Box” that’s rooted in everyday happiness. Băng is currently a sophomore at Đà Lạt University and was stuck in Saigon during the last COVID-19 lockdown. “My food reserve back then was quite limited, so I had to survive on a lot of canned stuff like tinned fish, Ông Thọ condensed milk, etc. After that wave, I see cans everywhere I go, the idea [to create this project] naturally comes to me.”

A tiny spirit in a can. This illustration was based on the urban legend of "ma lon"; Khánh Băng drew this for the 7th lunar calendar celebration.

“Childhood is also a subject I brought to the series, though these ideas didn’t just come from my childhood but also the millennial generation and even my parents’ life,” she explains. Case in point, the illustration on “ma lon” (cursed milk can) happened after somebody asked Băng: “Have you played with ma lon before?” The piece on pavement iced tea, for example, came together thanks to her father’s routine of having coffee at street stalls near their home.

The process to accomplish one illustration involves sketching the idea out on paper, photographing the design and then finishing it on the computer. “During downtime when I’m not ‘hunted’ by school deadlines, I dedicate one day per artwork, but because of my schoolwork and part-time job, now I’m dilly-dallying a bit,” Băng shares. Apart from Phố Trong Hộp, she’s also a part of the Y-UCEM Project, in which she helps create infographics about ethnic minority communities in Vietnam.

Sá Xị Chương Dương root beer.

If one pays close attention, they would notice that each of the artworks in Phố Trong Hộp has a “cameo” by cute animal characters, like a gray cat wearing a mask or the cheem dog. This is also a way for Băng to incorporate the national guideline on pandemic safety — which fits the context of how this collection was born.

Above all, Băng wishes to depict as much of Vietnam’s street culture as possible in her work because “no matter how beautiful or how shabby it is, it’s a unique characteristic of our country. Each person viewing the illustrations can reminisce about the stalls, utility posts, and plastic tables of their own life.”

Have a closer look at Khánh Băng’s endearing Vietnam corners here:

Ông Thọ condensed milk.

Cao Sao Vàng herbal ointment.

Ba Cô Gái sardines.

C2 lemon tea.

Dutch Lady milk.

Phật Linh Trường Sơn medicated oil.

Sting energy drink.

A live piggy bank.

Hảo Hảo noodles.

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