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Published: October 27th 2009
Propaganda for fire fighting
I saw this poster when I was passing by the Fire Fighting Department in Điện Biên Phủ city, north west Vietnam. The woman wears traditional dress of the Thai ethnic minority group in north west Vietnam.
In May 2007, during my transit time from Brunei to Hanoi, I had to stay for a night in Kuala Lumpur. While I was walking down a street in Bukit Bingtang trying to find a hotel or guest house, I passed by a Vietnamese restaurant in the area. It was easily recognizable since the Vietnamese propaganda were hung up as decorations both inside and outside the restaurant. I went into the restaurant and asked a boy there if he could speak Vietnamese. He answered me in Vietnamese with southern accent and advised me to ask the hotel next to the restaurant. For the first time I saw a Vietnamese restaurant when traveling abroad and it was interesting to see the owner chose Vietnamese propaganda for decorating the restaurant, instead of paintings of the famous landscapes in Vietnam.
Perhaps propaganda have become a special feature of Vietnam, as I've seen some people in the Thorn Tree travel forum asking where they could buy propaganda. Imagine they would hang up in their room a picture of Vietnam with a star, flag or soldier with machine gun. In Vietnamese we call propaganda as "Tranh cổ động". There are many subjects for the propaganda,
Đồng Hới city, central Vietnam
This shot was taken after Tết (the Lunar New Year) in January 2009 in Đồng Hới city, central Vietnam. The words mean "Congratulations to the Country, the Communist Party and Happy New Year!".
for example, celebration of the important events, national holidays, new years, elections, family planning (every family should have one or two children), fire fighting and protection of property through fire prevention, traffic safety (safety first and everyone should wear helmet when riding motorbike), prevention of drug use and spread of HIV/AIDS etc.
In my opinion, the propaganda play an important role. Not only they draw public attention to some events or social issues, they also show different ideas and imaginations of the artists. This also can be seen in Vietnamese stamps. Sometimes competitions are organized to find a design for a poster/stamp campaign. These competitions attract the participation of many painters. My grandfather was one of the contestants and he was once awarded a prize for his design.
Having been to 18 countries, I found that I did see more propaganda in Vietnam and China than other countries. It is because I've spent more time in these countries, but I guess another reason is that the communist parties lead the countries. In different cities of China, I often saw propaganda with pictures of the Chinese presidents. Last year there were propaganda of the Olympic games in Guilin when
Country reunification day 30 April
Celebration of the 35th reunification day of Vietnam on 30 April 2010. (Poster in Hanoi)
I traveled in this city.
The photos in this blog were taken in different cities/towns of Vietnam from north to south. You can see the various expressions of the same event, for example, celebrations of the new years. There are also different sizes of propaganda depending on the places. Often I ignore the political propaganda and only take photos of propaganda which are related to the festivals or interesting events.
Tips: There are some shops in Hanoi's Old Quarter that sell propaganda to tourists. You can view the samples on their websites, but it's better to see them in reality and check out the price.
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