Revolution Until Victory
This poster features a cartoonishly buoyant Yasser Arafat standing before a Palestinian flag while flashing the peace, or victory, sign. The caption in Vietnamese script (yellow text at top of poster) reads: “Revolution Until Victory,” the slogan of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Across the very top of the poster the word “Palestine” is printed in Arabic and English.
Hand-screen printed in Hanoi during the war against the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments, it is remarkable for several reasons.
It was one of approximately 100 posters in a national exhibit mounted repeatedly in the 1970s by the government of Vietnam, and it was the only one dedicated to a non-Vietnamese theme. It also was the only poster in any language other than Vietnamese. All the other posters dealt with the domestic concerns of a nation at war such as agriculture, industrial production, recycling, reforestation, animal husbandry, aquaculture, military and civilian defense. No other solidarity poster, saluting any other national liberation struggle has ever been documented as coming from this era of Vietnamese history. Not even Cuba, with which Vietnam had numerous, and strong, ties is represented in its poster art of this period.
Paper, inks, film, and all the other supplies needed to print posters in wartime Vietnam were extremely scarce. Most posters were hand-pulled silk screens created using an ingenious array of alternative approaches to production such as color-building (laying differently diluted portions of one color to create a third, fourth, or fifth tone) or reusing screens and film repeatedly until they disintegrated. Given this scarcity, it is significant that these very scarce resources were dedicated to this poster, one that does not directly relate to defense or production.
This poster was produced not later then 1972, only four years after Palestinians seized control of the PLO in 1968. This implies that the PLO’s legitimacy was near-instantaneous among national liberation movements.
This poster is also important for how it illuminates the diversity of its genre. About one quarter of the posters in the Palestine Poster Project archives (currently numbering about 3,000 originals) come from non-Arab, non-Palestinian sources. As a genre the Palestinian poster is kaleidoscopic: posters come from everywhere, even the unlikeliest of places.
During the early Zionist period (1918-1948), the emphasis of poster art about Palestine was to urge Jewish people to visit or settle in Palestine. That art was created by artists outside of Palestine who were part of a large and organized campaign to encourage emigration to Palestine. In the later, Palestinian phase, (post-1965), much of the art has again been created by non-Palestinians outside of Palestine who are part of a vast un-organized campaign, though this time the theme is to urge Palestinians to stay and resist.
The early Zionist recruitment art was worked up contractually, as part of a sophisticated, professionally launched advertising campaign. The later Palestinian nationalist solidarity art is much more decentralized, spontaneous and diverse, as represented by this war-time Vietnamese poster. This is a critical distinction because it highlights the motive behind production, which is essential to the process of defining and legitimizing political art.
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Questions for A New
1) What explains the spontaneous emergence of a global poster art movement in solidarity with Palestine?
2) What are some of the reasons why the Vietnamese in particular might have identified with the Palestinian revolutionary movement?
3) What explains the absence of an international poster art movement in solidarity with the goals of Zionism?
4) Most historians conclude that the U.S. lost the war in Vietnam because it never understood that the Vietnamese were engaged in a nationalist struggle — to rid the country of American occupiers — just as they had earlier fought to rid the country of the Chinese, the Japanese, and the French. Though the Israelis do not consider themselves colonists, the Palestinians do. What parallels exist between these two conflicts? What are the key similarities and differences?
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