Hour At The Museum

The exhibition Vietnam 1954-1975 at the National University of Singapore Museum presents a collection of war drawings, posters and woodcuts from the Vietnam War era. It draws from the collection of former diplomat Datuk N. Parameswaran, who was Malaysia's ambassador to Vietnam from 1990 to 1993. The exhibition coincides with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of the war.

DUYEN LAO CHURCH, TIEN MINH VILLAGE, THAI BINH PROVINCE (1953)
By Huynh Van Thuan, pastel on paper, 20x29.7cm

Datuk Parameswaran encountered the works of Huynh Van Thuan on the streets of Hanoi. This drawing of a bombed church was made during the earlier, French phase of the Vietnam War, when the North Vietnamese army fought to drive the French out of the country.

DEEP IN SLEEP AFTER DRINKING TOO MUCH (1950)
By Huynh Van Thuan, mixed media on paper, 17.6x23.2cm

In this work, it looks like Huynh Van Thuan, who is from North Vietnam, is making fun of French soldiers. In fact, he is lampooning South Vietnam soldiers who are drunk on rum.

VICTORY OF DIEN BIEN PHU 7.5.1954 (1960)
By Huy Toan, woodcut print on paper, 31x44.7cm

Many war drawings and posters are not considered significant by the Vietnamese. Huy Toan showed Datuk Parameswaran the posters he made, which were all stored under his bed.

WOMAN CIVIL GUARD, NAM NGAM, HAM RONG (THANH HOA PROVINCE) (1965)

By Pham Thanh Tam, watercolour on paper, 32x20.5cm

Portraits present a more human side of the war. Some of them were made to be given to the subjects' families or to be used for identification purposes should they die in the war.

SILENCE THE AMERICAN CANNONS! (1969)

By Minh Hai, mixed media hand-painted poster on paper, 39.5x57.3cm

This propaganda poster showed how civilians were involved in the war. The tone is anti-colonial and is reminiscent of Soviet- and Communist China-style propaganda.

SPECIAL FORCES ATTACKING CUA VIET (AN ESTUARY IN QUANG TRI PROVINCE) (1969)

By Pham Luc, pencil on paper, 39.5x56cm

In this drawing, Vietnamese commandos are depicted wearing little, to help them move through small tunnels and under barb wire unencumbered.

WELCOME THE LIBERATION ARMY OFHO CHI MINH CITY (1975)

By Huy Toan, gouache and lacquer on thick paper, 32x53cm

The artist, who was a major in the armed forces, wrote in his notes: "I participated on the day 1.5.75 in liberated Saigon... I have drawn many pictures of the Saigon people with the army. I did this painting."

KILLING MOSQUITOES TO FIGHT FEVER GUARANTEEING THE NUMBER OF SOLDIERS (1973)

By Hoang Dinh Tai, woodcut poster on paper, edition 1/10, 52.8x34.5cm

By 1973, the Vietnamese were in the process of negotiating for peace and American troops were starting to pull out of Vietnam. The poster contains a health advisory telling soldiers to take precautions against malaria as the war would be over soon.

WHERE: NUS Museum, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent MRT: Kent Ridge WHEN: Till April next year ADMISSION: Free INFO: www.nus.edu.sg/museum

Nabilah Said

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - NSHOUR18'. Print Edition | Subscribe