August Nguyen

August Nguyen

Visual Communication Designer

Mekong, 2100

“Mekong, 2100” narrates a peculiar tour along the Mekong that takes the readers across time and space. Every aspect of the author’s affection, memories, concerns and predictions for the river — which associates with his identity — will be unfolded through a series of four picture books.

Read the full process report here.

FROM LANCANG TO CUU LONG

Being born and raised in Can Tho, the surrounding Mekong river has always been a substantial part of my identity. 20 years of my life have been fed by the rice, the fish, the fruit, and everything else grown on the enriched and fruitful Mekong Delta.

Not only is she important to me, but so is she to more than 70 million other people directly rely on her for livelihood. More than 15% of rice in the world comes from here, feeding about 300 million people worldwide. Most if not the entire land of Mekong Delta depends on the nutrient-rich sediment carried down from the upstream, which also make up for the coastal erosion.

The Mekong River Basin also houses a remarkable nature and human diversity. Coming from Tibetan deserted glaciers to the vast and peaceful Mekong Delta, Mekong — or Zaqu, Lancang, Mae Nam Khong, depending on where she is — has been nurturing countless lives and witnessing more than two millennia of culture.

FROM 1995 TO 2100

Things are always changing. However, some changes are uncalled for.

The Mekong has been heavily dammed for decades, the first ones being built no later than 1995, when few would think about how serious the consequences could get. They might not have expected there would be more than 50 dams at different scales operating in one same river system. The Mekong might be able to survive a few, but as more and more dams being built — the plan goes on until 2030 — some signs of what to come cannot get more obvious.

But that doesn’t stop Mekong from being the fastest growing river basin in the world in terms of hydropower construction. Someday, maybe as late as 2100, while most of the sediment building the delta has been trapped upstream, a one-meter rise of the sea-level can flood more than a quarter of the delta, overwhelm the home of five million who have nowhere to go.

FROM STATUS QUO TO MOTIVATIONS

I want to bring a voice to the table and fill in a gap that has little been touched. While the existing projects focus more on depicting the momentary beauty or fearfulness of the Mekong, “Mekong, 2100” aims to explore the original characteristics of the river and the devastation of human’s actions.

The Mekong culture has certain distinctive features, where what seem frightening like floods are essential to lives, and what deemed as trivial as a 0.5°C increase might be detrimental. As misinterpretation from outsider is inevitable, what further differentiates this project is the perspective of a local resident.

Targeting at foreign tourists in Mekong Delta, the work is executed in a narrative format of a tour across time and space, translated into a Southeast Asian-styled illustration series, with the ultimate goal to spread the awareness and communicate the moral of respecting nature.

 

NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT

Dividing the narrative was taken seriously, as it affects all aspect of the final product, content-wise and appearance-wise. In order to have the weight equally distributed and honour the final goals at the same time, options like topic-based, or country-based were considered, before a time-based story was chosen. Besides being the optimal way to distribute the weight equally, it highlights the biggest motivation of the project: how the Delta is projected to change in 2100. The target audience — another important part of the brief — also took part in this decision as well.

The final option is a time-based approach that has a touch of everything. While travelling across time, the readers take a tour through countries as well. At the same time, each book will focus on one specific topic.

Read more here.

VISUAL DEVELOPMENT

“Southeast Asian” is the keyword for the visuals, from inspirations to the final artworks.

The first inspiration for this series, “Malayan Life” by Seah Kim Joo, was the major influence for the first phase of the project. As a mural, the painting looks magnificent for its even depth and rich of details. Adapting the style into the story was a large part of style exploration (‘before’ sketches), and it turned out that this style didn’t fit my work due to differences in genre and size. There needs to be an increase in depth and decrease in the level of details to compensate the smaller scale. Moreover, the visual flows were also adjusted to be more dynamic and make room for text.

The final illustrations (‘after’ sketches) is a combination of the findings during the style studies, a new inspiration palette, and suggestions from ADM faculties. The different colouring styles resulting from the experiments got unified in a larger canvas, with organic textures and motifs as found on Asian folk paintings in a more contemporary set of compositions.

Read more here.








MEKONG, 1995

As the year of 1995 witnessed the foundation of the Mekong River Commission, an effort to reserve and develop the Mekong toward sustainability, the first part of the series is about the river’s history and nature in its early days.

(Optimised for digital view. Some pages were omitted)





MEKONG, 2100

The last and most important component of the series voice out an alarming projection of a dystopian future of the river and the long-gone Mekong Delta, where all the consequences of the dams are irreversible and unrecoverable.

(Optimised for digital view. Some pages were omitted)



…AND MORE TO COME

Besides “Mekong, 1995” and “Mekong, 2100” set to be completed first for ADM Show 2018, “Mekong, 2018” — which features the cultures in the Mekong river basin — and “Mekong, 2030” — which discusses the dams and climate change after the last dam is expected to be completed — will also be released in the future.

“Mekong, 2100” was exhibited in ADM Show 2018 and was nominated for the Sustainability Award 2018.

CREDIT

  • Project supervised by Asst. Prof. Ng Woon Lam
  • Mekong by Vinh Vuong
  • Kaisho by August Nguyen
  • Sounds by the Economist