A trip report by Felix Ruhl
Posters are as common in vietnamese cities as advertising and billboards are in Europe.
However, vietnamese graphic design is much more original and also more to the point.
Vietnam is a Social Republic, whith quite a liberal interpretation of socialism. Outsiders are rarely aware of the One-Party-State. Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) reminds the visitor of capitalist Bangkok, loved and spoiled by big money. Free markets and and active businesses are found wherever tourists turn up.
The production of public graphics is still in the hands of the state however, and has the educational character which is typical for a socialist country, although the classic propaganda posters with large scale portraits of Marx and Lenin are rarely seen. Anyway, personality cult as in the Soviet Union, Cuba or East Germany is rather foreign to the modest and restrained vietnamese character. Even the national hero Ho Chi Minh is worshipped mainly in the appropriate city museums.
Some posters can be seen all over the country, which today has about 80 million inhabitants. They mostly treat everyday, practical subjects like safety(2), health (7) and education (3). We can assume that they are targeted at an audience which can be reached better with pictures than with text.
I took photos of some of the typical themes: Ma Tuy translates as drugs (2)(4)(5), and posters with this text strongly discourage their use. Drugs are often associated with with the danger of AIDS infection (5). Hay noi khong voi ma Tuy - say no to drugs - points to a problem with which Vietnam hes been confronted increasingly during the last few years (4). Some posters advertise drug treatment programs.
A rather surprising topic is the consumption of sugar, which seems to be used excessively (in the opinion of the authorities) in vietnamese cooking. Some posters try to educated the viewer by explaining that many foods already contain a lot of natural sugar, hoping to convince the cooks to use less of the weet spices (7).
Posters with breastfeeding mothers are quite common. They are advised to eat a balanced diet, and not to overfeed their babies (6).
The peace dove refers to the unification of North and South Vietnam in 1976 after
the american invasion had been succesfully averted. The children in white shirts wear the
typical shool uniform. The poster celebrates the 53th anniversary of a school (3).
Felix Ruhl is a free lance journalist living in Basel (CH) and visited Vietnam early this year. His barber is from Vietnam and helped us with translations.