, the next place I went to was Long-an
is an area just next to Saigon
. Therefore there were daily bombings and frequent mopping operations by the Saigon
troops into the villages and hamlets. For example, when I lived in An-ninh village, Duc hoa district, the American and the puppet troops made mopping up operations into the village twenty three days out of the month.
I lived with the inhabitants and the guerrilla fighters there. Every day I painted if I got the opportunity to do so. And, of course, I showed my paintings to the village inhabitants. But whenever the enemy troops came I carried my guns and fought alongside the guerrilla fighters. These guerrillas directed me what to do in certain situations. When the going was rough, they would tell me to get down into a tunnel and hide there.
By and by I got so used to the situation that I even knew when an artillery shell would fall on my position and when it would miss. When an artillery shell was going to hit my position, for example, I would only hear a slight purr and nothing else after that. But when it missed my position, then I would hear a long screeching sound like this. When I got used to all the airplanes, all the bombs and bullets and all the search and destroy or mopping up operations, I began to lead a very relaxed and enjoyable life.
And by that time I also had quite a number of paintings in my hands, so I had much to be happy about. I recall that the night I left Long-an
the courier girls were listening to my playing the flute as they were rowing the sampans. I always carried a flute with me on this kind of trip. And at that moment I was playing my flute amidst the poundings of the 175mm artillery from Cu Chi. Of course, I realized that the shells would fall quite a distant from where we were and so I calmly played my flute and the courier girls were enchanted. After that, the girls sang southern folksongs.
province I went to My-tho
and then Ben-tre
. During the period from 1967 to 1968, I spent the most time in Ben-tre
. And it was in Ben-tre
that I encountered the most interesting things in my artistic life. Artistically speaking, I usually pay a lot of attention to political struggles. And it was in Ben-tre
where political struggles unfolded continually.
I accompanied the women – elderly women and young girls alike – who staged political struggles daily. At that time the United States and the Saigon
regime were carrying out their pacification program. This meant that they shelled and bombed the rural areas daily, destroying the extremely beautiful and plentiful coconut groves of the Ben Tre
inhabitants. For this reason, the inhabitants of Ben-tre
staged continual demonstrations to protest all the shelling and bombing which often caused tremendous damage to the inhabitants of Ben-tre
in terms of lives and property.
Therefore, the inhabitants carried the corpses of the victims to the district and provincial towns to confront the Americans and the puppet troops and demand that there should be an end to all the bombing and shelling. There were bombs and shells everywhere. I can testify that I had traveled all over Ben Tre
and had not seen a single coconut tree which did not have bomb and shell fragments and bullets lodged in its trunk. When the 1968
Tet Offensive came about, I was in Ben-tre
By that time I already had a large number of paintings, which I put inside an American ammunition case. The special feature of this American ammunition case was its being water tight. So that if anything happened, I could always shove that box underwater by the side of an irrigation ditch or a canal, making it impossible for anyone to detect it. And if nothing were to happen to me, then I could always come back to the place and lift out the ammunition box which had my paintings safely stored in there.
This was the period in which I painted whenever and wherever I had the opportunity to do so. And I exhibited my paintings everywhere. It was a very happy period in my life. Many times, in many places, I had one man exhibitions which averaged around 60 to 70 paintings and, sometimes, even 200 to 300 paintings. It was really very simple to put on these exhibitions. I adhered the drawings on white papers to dark colored backings and those on colored papers on white backings.
Whenever I wanted to put on an exhibition, all I had to do was hang up some strings and clip the drawings on them with cloth pins. There was something which happened which was of special interest to me. You can see that among the drawings being exhibited now, there is one which is entitled: "Protecting the People's Administration." This drawing was made in 1968
. The origin of the drawing was as follows: I had to carve the seals for the People's Executive Committees of Ben Tre province
city, and the districts of Mo-cay
, Giong-trom, Thanh-phu and Ba-tri
. I had to test these seals with red ink on paper, and this gave me very strong impressions of the building of revolutionary governmental administrations in the South.
Sometimes, out of excitement, I also placed my signature next to the imprints of these seals on the pieces of paper. I must say that while I was in Ben Tre
I witnessed the extremely bustling scenes at the ceremonies celebrating the founding of governmental administrations in many places. It was precisely because of this that in the painting I mentioned there is a guerrilla girl holding the NLF flag and, in a corner, there is a seal with the words "The People's Revolutionary Committee of Saigon
This is a painting which, although from the technical artistic point of view was a very difficult one to create, has been widely recognized within the artistic community as a very successful and popular drawing. And although this drawing is only of the political poster type, some people have framed it and put it up on the walls of their homes ever since 1968 until the present time.