Thursday, 14/04/2011 09:38

Culture Vulture

Born in 1946, artist Ly Truc Dung has been drawing cartoons for over 30 years. His works are printed in both national and international newspapers and magazines.


Born in 1946, artist Ly Truc Dung has been drawing cartoons for over 30 years. His works are printed in both national and international newspapers and magazines. He recently published a book on the history of Vietnamese cartoons after years of research. Dung spoke to Culture Vulture about the book.

Where did you get the idea to create this book? Did you encounter any difficulties in the writing process?

Many years ago, artist Mai Van Hien told me about the cartoons created during the guerrilla war against the French. Then, when I was in the hospital, one of my roommates talked about President Ho Chi Minh's cartoons in Le Paria newspaper. Impressed by these stories, I began to collect materials relating to Vietnamese cartoons.

In 2005, the The Thao&Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) newspaper suggested I write a column about cartoons. I seized the opportunity and soon, Goc Ly Truc Dung (Ly Truc Dung's Corner) was released. Two years later, I started to write stories about influential artists in the field of Vietnamese cartoons.

Research for my columns gave me a chance to listen to moving stories that ultimately motivated me to publish this book. The biggest challenge was actually collecting materials. I had a hard time finding many documents and many that I did find had been poorly preserved.

How has the Vietnamese cartoon industry developed?

Some Government officials have been writers, and even actors or actresses, but none have ever drawn cartoons except for President Ho. His first work was published in Le Paria in the French capital Paris in 1922. His cartoons, mostly criticising colonialism, expressed a certain internationalism.

In my opinion, the first professional cartoonist was Nguyen Tuong Tam (pen-name Nhat Linh), known for his work on Xa Xe and Ly Toet, published in Phu Nu Thoi Dam magazine. His two characters were familiar to Vietnamese people during the period 1933-1944, and when he bought the Phong Hoa and Ngay Nay newspapers, he continued to draw them.

During the war against the French, there were many talented artists, such as Phan Ke An, Mai Van Hien and Nguyen Bich. And during the war against the American aggressors, many artists published cartoons condemning American troops and the Sai Gon regime.

Following doi moi (renewal) process which started in 1986, the cartoons printed in many newspapers, including Lao Dong and Van Nghe, attracted a lot of readers.

Today, young artists have really taken the cartoon industry by storm and play an important role in its development.

How do you think cartoons can affect the world?

Cartoons cannot replace politics, but they symbolise struggles against imperfections and can make people realise their defects. Of course, using cartoons without considering their impacts can be a disaster.

Cartoonists' duties are arousing laughter and helping people become more light-hearted and self-deprecating.

What do you think of Vietnamese cartoons today?

Doi moi was the golden period for Vietnamese cartoons. Today they are not as good. They are used in an apprehensive way and are not always authentic. I used to joke that editors-in-chief were afraid of cartoonists. If the press does not use cartoons properly it will be hard to develop Vietnamese cartoons further. — VNS

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