Vietnam 1954 battle exhibit pulled over ‘unsuitable’ painting

Cultural authorities in Hanoi have shelved an exhibition commemorating the watershed 1954 Vietnamese Communist military victory over France at Dien Bien Phu because a painting of a scrawny soldier with a ragged flag was deemed offensive.

“The reason for the suspension is that there were a number of opinions that the main painting of the Dien Bien Phu Exhibition had such a tattered national flag and a soldier that was not handsome and not anatomically correct,” Nguyen Do Bao of the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism was quoted by state media as saying.

The exhibition by painter Mai Duy Minh was suspended before it was slated to open on May 7, the 68th anniversary of the fall of the French fortress in northwestern Vietnam that marked the end of 70 years of colonial rule by France. Forces of the Viet Minh led by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap routed the French, killing nearly 2,300 soldiers in action and capturing 11,000 troops in a bloody 57-day battle.

Artist Minh’s depiction of a gap-toothed Vietnamese soldier with a twisted torso holding a frayed Communist flag angered some readers commenting on the Facebook page of RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

The artist “should break his paintbrush and throw his pen in the trash bin,” wrote Nhung Nguyễn, who said his country’s revolutionary troops must be shown with “bravery, majesty and a victorious glow in their eyes.”

Some readers used the flap as an opportunity to take an ironic jab at the censorship-minded Commuist Party.

The soldiers who prevailed at Dien Bien Phu “must be in beautiful uniforms like the British ones guarding Buckingham Palace,” wrote Charlie Nguyen.

Minh’s painting of a scrawny fighter with broken teeth makes him look like a “poor peasant or a robber,” he added, saying the flag should be “repainted straightened.”

One reader, Jenna Hoang, accused the critics of favoring a “fabricated” image of “superheroes” and ignoring the realities of wartime life in Vietnam.

“Poverty during that time in the North defines the [soldier’s] skeleton, forehead and mouth,” she wrote.

Published on : May 10, 2022 at 3:15 AM

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