Portraitists in Ha Noi’s Night Markets

In the night markets in Hang Ngang and Hang Dao Streets and in Dong Xuan Market, many students and elderly are wrapped up in drawing portraits of wayfers and foreign visitors. Standing in a group or sitting in a private corner with some pencils and paper, they earn good money with their talent. A portrait costs VND30-50,000.

Student Mac Thuy Dung is drawing portrait of a kid.

When the Dong Xuan Market is in a bustle, Do Le Thanh Dat, second-year student of the Ha Noi Open University, begins his weekend job. Dat has had two years drawing portraits for visitors in the Dong Xuan Market. “With just some pencils, paper, a hard cover and a frame, students who have a talent for drawing can do the job”, he said.

Sitting next to Dat is Mac Thuy Dung, who is drawing a portrait for a kid. It takes her more than 20 minutes to complete the sketch because the boy wriggles all the time. The portrait costs VND20, 000.

They usually finish work late at night. “This work helps me earn extra money for my expenditures and my family”, Dat added.

Le Thu Ha, the third-year student of the Ha Noi Industrial Fine Arts University, has six month's experience with this work on Hang Duong Street. At the beginning, she just wanted to improve her skills, so she gave free portraits to customers. Anyhow, some paid her and explained that street portraitists receive recognition by people in foreign countries.

After that, Ha calls for her friends to gather on the on Hang Duong Street to draw portraits of wayfers and visitors in the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “Beside the extra income, the work helps me improve my skills”, Ha said. The customers will not pay her if they are not pleased with the works.

Ha Tu Minh, a retired old man, does not sit at any fixed place. He rides a bicycle around the city and stops for a while at crowded streets or beautiful sites to draw. He usually takes a halt on the lakeshore. A small board written “portrait drawing” is hung on his bicycle.

According to painter Nguyen Trung Dung, who has a passion for portraits, it takes at least ten years to be skilled at drawing portraits. The portraits drawn in only minutes are just considered as a souvenir. Anyhow, many foreign visitors are interested in the service. It is one of the specific cultural features of Ha Noi that should be developed.

Sources TT, Dantri – Translated by Kim Khanh

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