9.11.10

Hanoi is a lot like my hometown

Norfolk, Virginia U.S.A.
Hanoi is a lot like my hometown, Norfolk, over ten time zones away, but still vivid in my memory. I grew up surrounded by art festivals, a historical movie theatre that was clearly biased towards low budget films, outdoor concerts by the Elizabeth river, and streets lined with restaurants and orange light, frequented by an eclectic mix of hipsters, artists and members of other social circles where having one or more tattoos is a plus. There I spent my weekends attending exhibits by local painters and photographers, watching movies unknown to the Hollywood film industry, seeing (and even playing in) rock shows in those one room venues around the corner, with bands that came a dime a dozen. I know all about the benefits of ordering a drink from the small second story converted Victorian house of a coffee shop over being caught dead at the Starbucks directly across the street. It is with an abundance of these unofficial, uncertified and largely undocumented qualifications that I enthusiastically set out to pursue the contemporary arts and culture scene in the urban districts of Hanoi, a melting pot of people and ideas.

(Norfolk) The Naro Cinema, famous for its selection of independent features
The most difficult part about enjoying a local exhibit, show, or performance is being made aware of its existence in the first place or, in most cases, the attempt to discover its existence. In my hometown, our community of artists, musicians, and small business owners worked together to promote each other’s work. As a result, an ingenious system of “leads” was devised, where entering one venue invariably lead to learning about another, all via a miniature command post devised from a wall or window sill which had been converted into an improvised bulletin board of upcoming events around the city. In addition to this, local papers, journals and literary mags were freely distributed for any and all businesses to place in their lobbies, foyers, and entrances. It was not uncommon to see customers sitting at a table, leaning back in their chair with a paper leisurely folded in their hands, catching up on local show reviews while waiting for a coke and a sandwich.

 Hà Nội ngày xưa 

Like I said, Hanoi is a lot like Norfolk. When I came to this realization, seeking out events and venues here came naturally to me. The contemporary arts community in Hanoi is still in its infancy, but that’s as good a time as any to enjoy raw talent and join together with like-minded individuals. In this article, I wanted to share a few examples of where I pick up my news concerning what’s happening in urban culture around the city. Maybe we’ll meet each other at one of these events, or maybe we already have…
(Norfolk) Granby street, 1960
-Zac Herman 
Hà Nội giống quê hương tôi  tuoitre.vn 

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