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As the country prepares for a week-long public holiday next month in celebration of the Lunar New Year (Tet), young people in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang are gearing up for another watermelon carving season.
Down a small alley in the province’s My Tho City, a group of young friends carefully dig razor-sharp knives into watermelons, peeling away thin layers of dark green rind and crafting animals and calligraphic letters from the fruit.
The group’s carved watermelons cost between VND500,000 (US$22) and VND700,000 ($31), depending on size and delicacy of the artwork.
The decorative watermelons are a hot product for local Vietnamese families looking for something different to add to their traditional offerings and ornamental displays during the Tet holiday.
Despite having only been introduced to the art a few months ago, 19-year-old Nguyen Hoa Van’s knowledge of art and calligraphy has earned him a reputation as one of the brightest craftsmen in the workshop.
Van’s carved watermelons can be sold for up to five times their original price, netting the young artisan VND1 million a day during the last few days leading up to Tet.
His instructor Phan Thi Kim Thoa, 55, says that only watermelons with a smooth, even rind and overall symmetrical shape are qualified to be transformed into works of art with high esthetic value.
Many of the 50 to 60 craftsmen, mainly youths, in Thoa’s group entered the practice simply to earn extra income before the upcoming holiday.