Mid-1977: Ngô Viễn Chí Finds Pineapples and Industry in Newly-named Ho Chi Minh City

In the first half of 1977 (the exact date is unknown), artists Ngô Viễn Chí and Quý Viện were engaged in an annual field trip to document the goings on in the south of Vietnam. Much like his earlier works beautifully capturing the facilities of Vì Dân Hospital in 1975, Chí’s watercolour painting (fig. 1) also depicts a scene in newly named Ho Chi Minh City.

Figure 1: Ngô Viễn Chí, 1977, Ho Chi Minh City area. “Cắt mắt thơm; VC (Removing pineapple eyes; VC (artist’s initials)).” Watercolour on machine-made paper, artist’s inscription written in ink.

Chí reproduces a factory scene showing women removing pineapple eyes, a delicate and skilled process needed when pineapples are peeled thinly in order to preserve the sweetest outer flesh of the fruit.

When talking to Ngô Viễn Chí in 2005, and further conversations with Quý Viện in 2017, Witness Collection learnt that, although annual field trips made by artists were compulsory excursions, Ngô Viễn Chí and Quý Viện chose where they travelled to, lending some sense of freedom and creative autonomy. Quý Viện could not remember the exact name and location of this particular factory.

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