Colorful rhinos storm Saigon alleys with a message: save them

By Thanh Nguyen   March 22, 2017 | 08:42 pm PT
Lively rhino graffiti has been popping up in Saigon's backstreets, bringing the illegal rhino horn trade to public attention.

The graffiti by local and foreign artists is part of the "Stop using Rhino horn” campaign jointly organized by Vietnamese NGO CHANGE and Ho Chi Minh City authorities. The artwork above can be found near Dien Bien Phu roundabout in District 1.


"During the past week, I've been coming over to the corner of Vo Van Kiet - Nguyen Van Cu almost every day just to see the artists drawing the rhinos; their graffiti is beautiful and meaningful," said Le Thi Kinh, 83, from District 1. Rhino horn is sought after in Vietnam by those who believe it can cure cancer, even though there's no scientific basis for this claim. The country is also a popular transit point for illegal animal products smuggled from Africa to reach other parts of Asia.


A group of 11 painters have been working on the rhino paintings in alleys around District 1. The one pictured above at the corner of Vo Van Kiet Street is calling for people to "protect rhinos". He said each painting takes about a week to complete.


French graffiti artist Florian Nguyen paints a rhino's eye on a corner wall on Vo Van Kiet Street.


Not far away, young French artist Jeremy Poilpre applies spray to soften his work.


A painting sends a message about loving rhinos in Alley 36, Nguyen Huy Tu Street, Da Kao Ward. Wild rhino populations dwindled to just 29,000 from half a million at the beginning of the 20th century, according to the International Rhino Foundation.


A close-up of the colorful rhino near Dien Bien Phu roundabout.


Another painting under Bui Huu Nghia Bridge attracts curious bypassers.


Young volunteers in Da Kao Ward also joined in on Hoa My Street.


"[People] have been painting rhinos for many days and they've just finished. At first, I didn't really like them, but then, seeing that the paintings are beautiful and meaningful, I have agreed for them to draw over the entire front wall of my house," said My Thi Dieu, the owner of a house on Phan Ke Binh Street.


Nguyen Thi To, 74, a local on Alley 60, Le Thi Rieng Street, Ben Thanh District, said she was amused by the rhinos. "The kids' paintings are so beautiful, and they go well with the city's green-clean-beautiful movement. It has transformed the dirty walls," she said.


A local glances at a rhino painting on Alley 153, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street.


Graffiti has give the corner of Vo Van Kiet - Nguyen Van Cu a new look. CHANGE Communications Manager Ngo Thanh Thao said the campaign was launched in late February. It aims to inspire local communities, leaders and especially young people to stop consuming rhino horn and to commit to protecting the animals. "After the campaign is over, 17 artworks will be kept in the alleys. Hopefully they will create a unique 'rhino corner' that attracts visitors to the city," said Thao.

Related news:

> Vietnam seizes 100 kilograms of rhino horn from Kenya

> Things are getting better for African rhinos, but don’t thank Vietnam yet

> Vietnam destroys huge ivory, rhino horn cache

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