Vietnamese Propaganda Art, All You Need To Know

Propaganda Posters Hanoi, Vietnam

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 a propaganda art posters.

Propaganda posters first started in the Soviet Union and then spread to other socialist countries like Vietnam. For many years, posters have been an essential part of the Vietnamese art scene. You can still see the propaganda art posters around Vietnam.

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Propaganda Posters Hanoi, Vietnam
Propaganda Posters Hanoi, Vietnam. This poster was first completed in 1979. I show Ho Chi Minh holding a baby. The white areas is a dove to symbolize peace.

The Start Of The Propaganda Posters

In the former Soviet Union, the Marxist-Leninist ideology used 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 illiterate could understand the meaning of the posters.

Vladimir Lenin, the  Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist said this about using art:

“The art of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive.”

Vladimir Lenin
Propaganda Posters Hanoi, Vietnam
Propaganda Posters Hanoi, Vietnam. These posters show some workers with Ho Chi Minh.

Propaganda Posters in Vietnam

Many believe that propaganda art posters started in Vietnam during the Vietnam War (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 propaganda art that followed the Leninist approach to art. The Leninists thought believed that:

“..art is not art unless it is propaganda.”

Leninist thought

Ho Chi Minh and the famous Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap understood the power of art to communicate their ideas. They used art and in particular, propaganda art posters to convey their message to the Vietnamese people. This is how the very simple, yet brightly colored art became such an essential part of Vietnamese culture and life.

Propaganda Art During the Vietnam War Years (1955-1975)

As the war in Vietnam raged for twenty years between 1955 to 1975, the propaganda posters became an essential nationwide rallying call to arms. The posters helped boost a sense of nationalism and Vietnamese pride.

Many 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 American bombers, being captured or killed. This was not an ideal environment for any 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 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 huge 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 propaganda art posters, I passed by these posters frequently but did not pay much attention to them. They are very much a part of Vietnamese culture and life, so if they disappeared, I would miss seeing them.

Propaganda Posters Hanoi, Vietnam
Propaganda posters on a major intersection in Hanoi, Vietnam

About Vietnamese Propaganda Art

Vietnamese propaganda art is as varied as the artists that produced it. In the war years, many students and volunteers 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 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, many different kinds of artists, students, and volunteers were involved in producing propaganda posters. Today propaganda posters are produced by propaganda artists that work for the Vietnamese government. This is why today, the style of propaganda art is quite similar and uniform.
  • 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 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 the predominant colors of choice for the artists.
  • Empathy Through Realism – One of the main objectives of 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 like fish, books, flowers, or vases. 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. 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 Vietnamese Proganada Artwork Explained

There are a few common themes that run through Vietnamese propaganda artwork. 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 significant 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 acknowledged the importance of women through 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 posters will show all kinds of workers in Vietnam doing various jobs. Workers from the military to construction workers. This can symbolize the importance of everyone in Vietnamese society working together for the nation’s good.

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. Walking 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 another gallery across the street. Some shops are 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.

The Vietnamese Propaganda Shop has reprints on rice paper, and they have a website where you can purchase online and they will send it to you anywhere in the world.

Vietnamese propaganda art posters are wonderful works of art. These amazing works of art tell a lot about Vietnam’s history, people, and culture.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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