It may appear like a fool’s errand, but for Seth and Dem, decorating soon-to-be-demolished walls in Ho Chi Minh City with beautiful graffiti is a meaningful thing.
The two French graffiti artists have been searching HCMC for walls that will soon be pulled down just to give them a final make-up. One may ask, “Why bother?” Seth and Dem would say creating beauty, even for very brief moments, is worthwhile.
Carrying bright paint to construction sites, they have thus drawn many lovely images - from a Vietnamese girl in a pink traditional dress to a young woman standing next to lotuses – that have made observers smile and lighten their mood.
Nguyen Thi Lun, who has had her house painted on the front and back walls, said though she was waiting to move to another place, she felt so happy to see beautiful graffiti every time she goes in and out of the house that she will soon leave. Seth and Dem would consider such a reaction from observers one of their greatest rewards.
It is indeed their hope to share their sense of beauty with others that has made them travel all over the world to draw graffiti.
For 20 years, Seth, or Julien Malland, a graduate of the National School of Decorative Arts in France, has been carrying his brushes and spray cans to streets in America, Brazil, China, Indonesia, India, and South Africa to draw graffiti showing the beauties of the native culture he sets foot on. It may be an Indian woman wearing a sewing machine on her head, a boy eating popcorns in front of a Mumbai grocer, a couple dancing waltz in Buenos Aires, girls and characters from comic books in Japan, or sunny beaches in Rio de Janeiro.
Whatever idea he may have, Seth would take care that it should be expressed in the most unobtrusive place – walls that will soon to be demolished – because if people don’t like what he draws, they won’t have to look at it for long.
In France, he is paid to do this. In Vietnam, where nobody pays him for his art work, Seth, and his close friend, Dem, are still showing local residents beautiful decorations.
For them, who are in HCMC only for a short while under an invitation by the French Consulate, this is one a way to leave their memories in the minds of those who would remember their lovely graffiti even after the walls have all been pulled down.