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Vietnam may not be a place that often beeps on the international graffiti radar. But all that may be about to change. Since late 2014 Montana Cans has become available in Vietnam and the locals are very happy. We were lucky enough to get this interview with Daos501 who is one of Vietnam’s most well known writers. He says the graffiti movement in Vietnam 10 years ago looked as though it had more momentum. But now there are a lot more new young kids taking it seriously with the availability of serious graffiti tools.

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At first, please introduce yourself.
I’m Daos501 from Saigon, Vietnam, representing 10S, NewDay and EVE crew. I’m a graffiti writer and also work on some comic projects.

You are one of the first-generation writers in Vietnam. Give us some insight on the early graffiti scene here…
Actually, graffiti started first in Hanoi around 2002 and then came to Saigon. Like a trend of young people, it soon disappeared. At that time I just started painting first pieces with my crew NewDay. When the first generation quit, everything was going down for graffiti in Vietnam. Around 2008/2009, I was lucky to meet my later crew mates 10S, Liar Ben, UFO crew and Click76 crew, who had been keeping graffiti alive in Saigon and Vietnam. With UFO and KAT, we founded THE SAIGON PROJECTS in 2009 to start graffiti projects, connect graffiti artists, bring graffiti to the people and keep bombing harder in Saigon.

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Which impact does the rich tradition and culture of painting in Vietnam have on your and other graffiti writers’ style in your country?
Nearly all Graffiti writers in Vietnam are teenagers. Initially, we began to follow the styles from western countries. We didn’t care about our traditions, the law and how people were thinking about us. For years we just tagged, went bombing and did straight letter-pieces. When we grew up and improved, we tried to be different from other graffiti scenes. So we thought about what we’re going to do with our own roots. That’s when we focused on our traditions and culture, which is like a big library to research. Liar Ben came up with his icon “Cô Mía” (a sugarcane lady in a popular advertising of sugarcane drink) for his awesome projects and painting. My buddy Chicko/10S improved his characters by learning traditional Vietnamese folk painting “Tranh Đông Hồ”. For myself, I love to build a comic series using traditional stories, fairy tales and make them up with new clothes.

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Since 2014, MONTANA-CANS is available in Saigon. Are there any shops for spray paints and graffiti equipment?
For over ten years developing, there is still only one graffiti online shop called NC STORE. My young homie Anoir started this online store at the age of 17 to sell some caps, inks, magazines and markers in 2012. We also worked together to bring female spray cans to Vietnam and founded a place for people to come and check out the products. But the market of under 30 active writers is quite hard for us to survive. We tried to hold this for one year but then I had to serve military. But it’s not the end. In 2014, NC STORE and my homie Suby1 brought graffiti in Vietnam a big surprise: MONTANA-CANS. And they are still the one and only graff store in Vietnam. Now we have good cans, well controlled caps, many color options and many young writers doing graffiti seriously, so I think graffiti Vietnam is gonna be hot again.

What do you expect for the future development of graffiti in Vietnam?
After finishing military service in July, I will prepare for the 7th anniversary mural of 10S crew. With NC store, Allinone team and some art spaces, we will organize more exhibitions, graffiti projects and jams to raise graffiti in Vietnam. I hope more people will do graffiti in Vietnam. We have to collaborate with international artists, paint bigger murals, get better spray paints and more graffiti jams. For myself, I’m planning a Southeast Asia tour after July to meet graffiti friends and paint murals outside Vietnam. Then I will prepare my big exhibition for celebrating my 10th year doing graffiti in 2016.

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Daos501, Vietnam and MONTANA-CANS
Interview by Andreas Margara, January 2015
Photography by Daos501