As you travel around Vietnam you will see these large posters on the intersections and street corners which depict some kind of theme about life in Vietnam. These posters are known as propaganda art poster.
Propaganda posters first started in the Soviet Union and then spread to other socialist countries like Vietnam. For many years, the posters have been an important part of the Vietnamese art scene. You can still see the propaganda art posters around Vietnam.
The Start Of the Propaganda Poster
In the former Soviet Union, the Marxist-Leninist ideology started to use propaganda art posters. These posters first appeared in the early 1990s. ,
The propaganda art posters were used to depict and show the Red Army’s many triumphs in the Soviet Union. The designs and colors were chosen to be bold with simple designs so that even the illeterate could understand the meaning of the posters.
Vladimir Lenin the Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist said this about using art:
Propaganda Posters in Vietnam
Many believe that the propaganda art posters started in Vietnam during the Vietnam War years (1955-1975). But propaganda posters were known to exist in the 1940s when the French still ruled Vietnam. The propaganda art posters would have been used by Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong to promote their cause and not by the French Government.
Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho as he is lovingly called by the Vietnamese understood the power of art in educating and telling a story. After the French left Vietnam in 1954, the dominant art style of Vietnam was the propaganda art that followed the Leninist approach to art. The Leninist thought believed that:
Ho Chi Minh and the famous Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap both understood the power of art to communicate their ideas. They used art and in particular the propaganda art posters to convey their message to the Vietnamese people. This is how the very simple, yet brightly colored art became such an important part of Vietnamese culture and life.
Propaganda Art During the War Years (1955-1975)
As the war in Vietnam raged for twenty years between 1955 to 1975, the propaganda posters became a very important nationwide rallying call to arms. The posters helped boost a sense of nationalism and Vietnamese pride.
Many of the propaganda artists would trek through the dense Vietnamese jungles with their comrades-in-arms essentially hardened front line soldiers. These same artists were not soldiers but students or volunteers, yet they lived under the constant threat of the American bombers, being capture or killed. This was not an ideal environment for any kind of artist.
Yet despite this hardship the propaganda artists continued to produce a huge amount of important propaganda artwork. For these artists it was a way for them to defy the enemy and show their nationalist pride and determination. That is why in their art during this time frame is a sense of optimism, peace, and hope for their country.
Propaganda Art In Vietnam Today
Today as you travel to Vietnam you will see propaganda art all over Vietnam. The propaganda art is on large size posters on major intersections, street corners, or traffic circles. In some of the Vietnamese countryside areas, you may see very large billboard size propaganda posters.
I have lived and worked in Vietnam for many years. I have to admit until I decided to write this blog about the propaganda art posters I passed by these posters frequently but did not pay much attention to them. They are very much a part of the Vietnamese culture and life, so if they disappeared I would miss seeing them.
About Vietnamese Propaganda Art
The Vietnamese propaganda art is as varied as the artists that produced it. In the war years, there were many students and volunteers who were involved in the production of the art. Because of this the art in this period is as varied as the artists who produced it.
Here is some general information about Vietnamese propaganda art:
- School of Fine Arts, Hanoi – Many of the propaganda artists attended the School of Fine Arts in Hanoi. This is still one best art schools in Vietnam.
- Artists – In the early years of propaganda art, there were many different kinds of artists, students, and volunteers that were involved in the production of propaganda posters. Today the propaganda posters are produced by the propaganda artists that work for the Vietnamese government. This is why today the style of the propaganda art is quite similar and uniformed.
- Vietnamese Style – During the war years, The School of Fine Arts, selected some students to go to the Soviet Union to study the Russian propaganda art style. In some of the art pieces in this era you can see the influence of Russian propaganda art, but most of the Vietnamese propaganda art has a decidedly Vietnamese style.
- Bright and Colorful – The artwork of the Vietnamese propaganda art uses bright and bold colors. Even today you see a lot of art using the colors of the Vietnamese flag with red and yellow being predominant colors of choice for the artists.
- Empathy Through Realism – One of the main objectives of the Vietnamese propaganda art is to help the viewers to have empathy through realism. You can see this in the propaganda art today as you see ordinary people next to Ho Chi Minh with everyday objects as a fish, a book, flowers, or a vase. Other everyday people as a worker with a hardhat that shows the importance of everyday laborers to Vietnamese life.
- Artistic Style – The artistic style of the propaganda posters is simple and has an art graphic feel to them. Bold colors cover large spaces of the artwork. Specific symbols will be used such as the lotus flower, a star, the Vietnamese flag, or the Communist sickle.
Themes of Proganada Artwork
There are a few common themes that run through the Vietnamese propaganda art work. The common themes are:
- Ho Chi Minh – One of the major themes of the propaganda artwork in Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh is highly revered and considered to be the founder of the Republic of Vietnam.
- Women – The role of women is very important in Vietnamese society. So many of the posters will emphasize the role and importance of women. Many women were heavily involved in the war effort so during the war era the artists would acknowledge the importance of the women through the posters.
- Children – You will see many posters that may have Ho Chi Minh surrounded or holding children. The children can symbolize many things, but among them is the future of Vietnam.
- Workers – Many of the posters will show all kinds of workers in Vietnam doing a variety of jobs. Workers from the military to construction workers. This can symbolize the importance everyone in Vietnamese society has to work together for the good of the nation.
Where to Purchase Vietnamese Propaganda Art
One of the best places to buy Vietnamese propaganda art is in Hanoi, Vietnam. There are several very good propaganda art dealers just off of Nha Chung Street near Nha Tho Street or the big Catholic church in Hanoi. If you walk up and down this street you will see several Vietnamese small Propaganda art shops.
You can check out Old Propaganda Posters at No 4 Nha Chung Street, and there is also another gallery across the street. There are some more shops selling propaganda art posters down Nha Chang Street across from the Joma Restaurant.
The Thang Long Gallery at 16 Hang Bac Street. They also carry some reprints.
Vietnamese propaganda art posters are wonderful works of art. These amazing works of art tell a lot about the history, people, and culture of Vietnam.
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