recently, the Tribun Jogja Muda, a news paper of Yogyakarta, English version has reported of the project Saigon Unfolded. Below is the text of the report.
Revealing Saigon through a Mural
By Michael HB Raditya
When hearing the word, Vietnam, what will you think beside the way to enjoy coffee that recently is loved by many people? If you feel confused, it is not a problem, especially considering the relation of Vietnam and our country in culture is relatively not really close. However, it does not mean that it makes us not care since we have been in similar gloomy condition, which is colonialism. It actually does not make us proud, but here, we both have built the spirit to fight, even by war.
In Vietnam, the war that has been their dark incision is the Saigon war. The war is to fight the colonialism and to fight people of their own that ended by confronting the communist regimes of Northern Vietnam and Southern Vietnam under the rule of the United States of America. The war that lasted for decades and ended in 1975 has exterminated millions of people. Instead of only becoming a dark record, Saigon tragedy now actually becomes a momentum of Vietnamese people to keep the unity from all issues of fundamentalist nationalism, ethics, and other issues.
Starting from the momentum, two cross-cultural artists which are Nguyen Quoc Dzung from Vietnam and Prihatmoko Catur from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, brought back Saigon to be their artistic project. Both artists conduct a retrospective effort, starting from Indochinese establishment – the means of France in colonializing Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos – to the recent government condition. This long incision they have done is used to reveal subtle things in nation.
Therefore, they embodied those means in the form of a mural on one of walls in Prawirotaman. It is entitled “The Saigon Unfolded”, which is a project giving information Saigon that is curated by a contemporary art hall of Zero Station in Vietnam, under the auspices of The Asian In/Visible Station Project, and is supported by Ace House Collective in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Opened on Sunday (12/3) together with local community, this mural will be held for a year. Thus, the retrospective project that interprets Saigon is not only limited to geographical location, but also about cultural negotiation in embracing the difference that can be a reflection for Indonesian community recently, and can be continuously enjoyed by the ones coming intentionally or crossing without plan.
From Saigon to Yogyakarta
Michael HB Raditya, Art Journalist
Displayed on a row of walls in an alley, right behind Prawirotaman traditional market, various pictures color the wall that typically is faceless. It quite stands out, especially to the attention of Prihatmoko Catur, or is often known as Moki, using bright colors in illustrating its interpretation. With the type of illustrative picture as a comic, the picture is made quite articulated in delivering the idea.
Regardless of the story that can be learned, the mural has been a medium in spreading the knowledge to all passersby. Especially the position of Prawirotaman that is familiar with tourists from various place, will actually make more interactions occurring. Although only with selfie, whether or not the appreciators understand, this, at least, can tell the diversity through art.
Meanwhile, if it is criticized from a row of relating pictures, there are around five stories that are set by both artists in interpreting Saigon from time to time. On the first picture with green background, there is a figure from Vietnamese tradition – with a coat and a mask attached – that stands with a figure from Javanese tradition – with a knight outfit as if in Ramayana or Mahabrata epic. It illustrates the form of different cultures, but can walk hand in hand. On the second picture, there is a couple from Vietnam holding jewelry with a mask on both of them. With a bright color as the background, which is yellow, there is also a tiger, while right below it, there is a house.
On the next picture, with red background, there is a Vietnamese soldier holding a spear in his left hand, while on the side there are two typical masks of Vietnam and Java. Meanwhile, on the top, there is a monk with an excerpt sentence on its right side. An excerpt is from a fragment of song lyrics from influential musician in Vietnam. According to Moki, the excerpt tells a story about the political situation in Vietnam. The excerpt along with a monk represents a hope of peace desired from a disappointment.
Moreover, on the other picture with green background, it illustrates two people facing to each other holding a weapon of each other. Above them, there is a gate with other excerpt on the right side. Different from the previous picture, the excerpt is taken from poetry from the war era. “Aim of the excerpt is to remind us about Vietnam as a legacy for children and grandchildren”, said Moki. As the result, it can be interpreted that the condition that happens is a civil war in fighting a territory, as if the excerpt reminds us that civil war will not happen.
Meanwhile, on the last picture, it describes a kingdom with a soldier guarding in front of it. On the top of the kingdom, there is a statue of dragon, a symbol of power. Five separated parts on the background with different color can be a time signal of certain event mark. Then, the entity separated from each other is not illustrated, under the five pictures which are connected to the picture that is disconnected, rippling waves and water wave. As if a sign illustrating that there is not limitation in interpreting, Saigon, where Vietnam and Indonesia can related on each other on certain spot.
Initiating from the embedded message that is considered important, it seems that the choice of Moki and Dzung is quite interesting to be listened to. concluded Moki. As the result of Moki’s artwork, it cannot be denied that appreciators of his artwork come from any society. Moreover, about society involvement, Moki also said that the society commonly joins to help, both in coloring on the mural, and accompanying by watching when it is being made. Although the mural should be made in Vietnam, and they do not receive permission from the local government, the permission from the local government, so the mural is made in Prawirotaman. However, the presence of the mural has made their village, not only more beautiful, but also delivers message of the unity that is started by understanding the diversity.