Arts & Entertainment

Vietnamese propaganda art sees revival in fight against COVID-19

By Eric San Juan.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- Communist propaganda art, which reached its peak in Vietnam during the war, has been recently revived by artists of all ages who seek to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 through their work.

When 34-year-old Hiep Le Duc saw that many people continued to step onto the streets in groups and visit restaurants and cafes despite the governmental advisory to stay home to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, he felt the need to help through his artistic work that would make the message clearer.

“I think it’s everyone’s duty to help your country, especially in a time like this. Do whatever you can, use whatever tool you have,” Hiep Le Duc told EFE. “In my case the best tool I have is my art. Art to me is really needed right now because it can inspire you with positive vibes, it can give you hope, and help you cope with what’s going on.”

Recreating the propaganda style that has been used by the communist regime since wartime, Hiep designed a poster showing two healthcare workers protected by their masks and with hands raised under the slogan which says that “staying home is to love the country.”

When the artist first conceived the idea, Hiep could never have imagined that in a few days it would go viral on the internet, the government would use it on its Facebook page, it would appear on the state-run television channels and would garner attention of international media.

“This is the first time I did the propaganda style. This style is and will always appeal to Vietnamese people. It reminds it us of a glorious time. I have never seen such unity and solidarity of spirit in our people before,” said the illustrator.

Often ignored by the youth and cornered by modern artists, the style is often seen as a relic of the past, an exotic anachronism for tourists in a country still governed by a communist regime, but which has embraced capitalism in its economic system.

The posters are still on the streets as a reminder of heroic events in the nation’s history and to raise awareness of social problems such as drug addiction and drink-driving, but their influence on today’s society is minimal.

After the outbreak of COVID-19, which the country has been able to contain with only 268 infections and no deaths, the Vietnamese government called on official painters to create banners to raise awareness and also launched a collection of postal stamps along the same lines.

Hiep and other independent artists accomplished this effort on their own and have been giving new impetus to an art form that they had not previously explored and which is proving useful in evoking patriotic sentiment and national unity.

Le Dac Tuyet Thang, 30, had also never experimented with the propaganda art, but after deciding on self-imposed quarantine to avoid the risk of infection, he has created 15 posters that promote staying home, carrying out hygiene measures, wearing masks and not spreading rumors on the internet.

To attract the attention of a younger population, Thang has softened the strokes, modernized the appearance of the characters that he draws and has been more creative in his written messages.

“This is the first time I tried this kind of art. I was still not used to it at first, so there was naiveté in my drawing. Gradually I think my feeling gets better so I can draw out more spirit with this form. With the desire to share optimistic information, I decided to change and adjust it a little bit to make it more accessible to everyone,” Thang said, proud of being able to contribute to the spirit of solidarity which for him is the basis of the Vietnamese identity.

Aside from giving propaganda art a second wind, the pandemic has also served as a wake-up call for the creators who opt for other graphic styles or other forms of art.

Several of them agreed to publish drawings at the same time on the social media to encourage the people to stay home and acknowledge the work of doctors and healthcare workers.

Huynh Kim Lien, who specializes in drawings for children’s stories, participated in the initiative with a picture to express gratitude and it went viral in a few days.

“I just want to send my gratitude to all the doctors and other health workers, social workers and military in Vietnam, who have been doing their best in keeping us safe and sound. We are really grateful,” said Lien.

Lien, who created a series of children’s drawings encouraging people to stay home and to follow hygiene measures, said that for an artist it’s a gift more than a duty to, “remind us to enjoy our life and, most importantly, wash our hands.” EFE-EPA


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