Any time I am lucky enough to travel around Vietnam, my eyes are trained to eagerly explore the cityscape/landscape in search of something I haven’t seen before. This is one of the many joys of living in an adopted country which is so vastly different from your own. There is so much about Vietnam that others may find mundane but I find visually exciting and fascinating.
I’m currently on a bit of a mission to photograph as many of the fabulously retro propaganda images around Vietnam that I can. I was fortunate to have travelled around the central Highlands and mid-coast of Vietnam a few times last year and these areas are peppered with these wonderful vintage propaganda messages. This hand painted gem was spotted at the entry to an army facility on the outskirts of Pleiku. As frequently happens, I startled our taxi driver with a sudden, over-enthused request to STOP. “Mot chut, mot chut” – I’ll only be a minute, I implore. While it is likely that I was not actually allowed to take this photo, army bases being what they are, I usually bound out of the car, snap the photos in lightning speed, to then jump back in again before personnel come running after me to demand that I stop.
Not surprisingly given its location, this image is about protecting the country at all costs. Propaganda images have been used extensively by the Vietnamese government since the 1940s, through times of struggle (during the French occupation), throughout the war with the US and continues to be used today as a means of communicating issues of concern or encouraging certain behaviours in citizens. More recently, community posters have been used an important tool to inform citizens and promote the fight against COVID-19. Interestingly, this has led to a renewed mainstream interest in Vietnam’s propaganda artwork.