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Hanoi artists draw inspiration from Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un summit

CNN logo CNN 2/28/2019 Oscar Holland, CNN
© Carl Court/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

The summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have yielded little politically. But in the host city of Hanoi, Vietnam, quick-thinking creatives from painters to T-shirt designers have been taking inspiration -- and, in some cases, made quick sales -- from the buzz surrounding the meeting.

In the Ha Dinh neighborhood, artisans at the craft workshop Hatolo produced a series of delicate leaf-cuttings depicting Trump and Kim. Created from dried leaves, the hand-made artworks each take a day or two to complete, depending on the complexity of the image.

The project's co-founder Tran Phi Long said he was inspired by the global significance of the meeting.

"It will prevent a big nuclear war, and bring peace for people around the world for 100 years," he explained via email Thursday, shortly before the summit came to an abrupt end. "I think art can promote peace. We always try to give each artwork a social concept from the beginning."

The leaf-cuttings had initially been created "as a gift" for the two leaders, although the artists' attempts to contact the US Embassy have thus far gone unheeded. Tran said the workshop now hopes to sell the works for $250.

Vietnamese artist Tran Lam Binh carries the portraits of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a cafe in Hanoi. © MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images Vietnamese artist Tran Lam Binh carries the portraits of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a cafe in Hanoi.

Elsewhere, local painter Tran Lam Binh (no relation) has been exhibiting his brightly-colored portraits of Trump and Kim at galleries and cafes in Hanoi, as well as in Ho Chi Minh City and Vung Tau. The artist uses bold, broad brushstrokes -- almost pop art in style -- to depict the two leaders sporting a variety of expressions, from smiling to serious.

© MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

"I chose bright colors to express a message of peace," Tran told CNN on the phone via a translator.

But while the painter said he's enjoyed growing interest during the summit, he's been painting Trump since 2015 (and Kim since 2017). He has produced more than 100 portraits of the pair collectively, although he's yet to sell any.

Tran said he was inspired by his admiration for Trump and his policies.

"I like (Trump's) strong actions, the strong movement to control the country and I love the quote ... 'make America great again,'" said the artist, who has previously produced paintings of all 45 US presidents.

Summit-themed artworks have also been spotted at other galleries and venues around the city. At the Lotus Water Puppet Theater, a popular Hanoi tourist attraction, paintings of the leaders were mounted on easels either side of the entranceway. Trump is seen smiling and waving beneath an image of what appeared to be two white doves.

An artist at the Hanoi craft workshop Hatolo cuts into to dried leaves to make portraits of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in honor of Hanoi summit. © Linh Pham/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images An artist at the Hanoi craft workshop Hatolo cuts into to dried leaves to make portraits of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in honor of Hanoi summit.

Merchandise and memorabilia

Most of of the summit-inspired art has taken the form of merchandise and memorabilia -- both official and unofficial.

Vietnam issued stamps and limited edition coins to mark the occasion, with posters displayed at traffic circles and major intersections. Local residents also produced their own banners and posters welcoming Trump and Kim to Vietnam.

For many small businesses in Hanoi, the summit provided a chance to advertise their wares. At least one cafe was selling cupcakes decorated with images of the leaders, while another produced a poster depicting Trump and Kim enjoying a Vietnamese coffee together.

And in the city's Old Quarter, just north of the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake, tourist stalls have been flogging T-shirts emblazoned with the leaders' faces. Many of the garments feature messages of peace, with other illustrations including Trump in a traditional Vietnamese-style conical hat and Kim branded "Rocket Man."

Vendor Truong Thanh Duc, who usually sells around 30 T-shirts a day, said that he shifted around 500 a day ahead of the summit. He claimed to have sold approximately 3,000 shirts of the leaders so far.

Truong, who has worked in the Old Quarter for the last 20 years, expressed support for the summit. He hopes that Kim Jong Un will follow Vietnam's example of peace and reform.

"This is an event to promote peace," he said.

a close up of a curtain: Hanoi summit souvenir T-shirts are displayed in a shop window. © Carl Court/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images Hanoi summit souvenir T-shirts are displayed in a shop window. a painting of a person: A painting of President Trump mounted on an easel outside the Lotus Water Puppet Theater  in Hanoi. © Josh Berlinger A painting of President Trump mounted on an easel outside the Lotus Water Puppet Theater in Hanoi.
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