July 1971: Phạm Đỗ Đồng Sketches in An Giang Province

Like other artists such as Nguyễn Thanh Châu, Phạm Đỗ Đồng was based in South Vietnam from 1969 until 1975, staying mainly in Tây Ninh Province, without returning to his home in Hanoi for the duration.

Working for the Trường Sơn Fine Arts Department in the Central Committee Propaganda Department for the South (The Liberational Fine Arts Department of South Vietnam National Liberation Front), Đồng saw violent action while documenting the lives of the Divisions 5, 7 and 9 based in Tây Ninh Province as a journalist and war artist.

In July 1971, Đồng visited An Giang Province to the southwest of Tây Ninh,  a journey that would have taken him through the spread out headquarters of the National Liberation Front (NLF) along Cambodia’s southeastern border with Vietnam known as the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN).

While in An Giang, Đồng continued his habit of sketching the portraits of people and soldiers deemed exemplary figures in the resistance struggle against South Vietnamese and American forces, like the portrait of Comrade Nguyễn Cẩm (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Phạm Đỗ Đồng, 9 July 1971, An Giang Province, “Đồng Chí Nguyễn Cầm (Comrade Nguyen Cam).” Charcoal on machine-made paper.

In another sketch (fig. 2), dated almost a week later on 15 July, Đồng depicts Comrade Nông Quang Bảo. As part of the inscription on the front of the sketch, Đồng records Comrade Bảo as being the holder of a third rank Medal of Liberation, a testament to Đồng’s description of him as a “model soldier”. In addition, Comrade Bảo’s family name, Nông, reveals his origin as being from a Northern ethnic group, further confirmed by his distinctive facial features. If nothing else, these small details impress the scope of the resistance movement, not least of all their success in transporting troops from North Vietnam to the south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Figure 2: Phạm Đỗ Đồng, 15 July 1971, An Giang Province, “Đ/c Nông Quang Bảo; A11; 3 Huân chương chiến công giải phóng hạng III; Chiến sỹ thi đua T. An Giang; 15.7.1971 (“Comrade Nông Quang Bảo; A11; 3rd rank Medal of Liberation Record Model Soldier; An Giang Province; 15.7.1971).” Charcoal on machine-made paper.

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