Monday, 27 May 2013

Chinese Propaganda Posters- Art at the service of Politics - Temporary exhibition at Museu do Oriente, Lisbon - The 26th of May 2013

I felt I shouldn't miss this temporary exhibition, once I was at Museu do Oriente and although I am not particularly keen on Political oriented Art, I must confess that this display of over 100 posters organized by different themes, most of which related to the Mao Zedong period, the prominent figures of the Revolution, the examples to be followed and even some of the popular references used in posters over the New Year was rather interesting, especially if one envisages the important role some of the ideas conveyed in them must have had in the people of China around that period and even later or the values and perspectives passed onto everyone through this Artistic form.

Can one say this particular Art served a purpose? ... One may have to admit it did, or at least it played its role in the course of time.

Of the series of people whose strong commitment to the cause led others to follow suit, I only chose two female figures, whose courageous actions will always be remembered by those who witnessed or heard of the circumstances they were involved in, one of which ended up in martyrdom. 

Liu Hulan (1932- 1947).

Ding Youjun (1931 - 1950)

Lei Fang (portrayed on the left) was brought up by the Party, having joined the People's Liberation Army at a very early age. His utmost desire was, in his own words - "to become a screw which won't ever rust in the revolutionary process".

"Heading towards Victory under the guiding light of Mao Zedong's thinking".

"The future lies in Agriculture and we are determined to being role- model peasants" (left). "The soldier, the son and the peoples' of China younger sibling" (right).

The Cultural Revolution in China, as it is well known, determined to break some of the old traditions ended up suppressing all forms of theatrical performances, having replaced them by revolutionary operas and dance performances.

Having gone through a harsh period of decline, the Shadow and Puppet Theatre manages to incorporate revolutionary oriented performances and create a whole new form so as to "survive" within the ongoing political  reality.

The "White-haired girl" was one of the revolutionary operas allowed in the Cultural Revolution, in as much as it described the misery and suffering the peasants had to go through during the Qing Dinasty, though it was adapted so as to have a happy ending (the moment the characters joined the Party).

The New Year's paintings represent one of the most important iconographic groups of the Chinese Propaganda posters because of the way in which they blend the messages conveyed by the Communist Party and the symbols of folk Art, such as happiness, wealth, abundance and longevity.

"Night of Celebration" (left). "We love President Mao" (right).

"Let us expel American Imperialism from Santo Domingo".

Maoism was made popular in Portugal  due to the role played by student and youth movements, especially from 1964 through to 1974.One of the galleries pertaining to this exhibition is precisely dedicated to that and the posters which came out during that period.

It is really worthy being visited (it will be on till October) particularly because it provides us with an insight into the whole propaganda process during the Mao period in a rather visual way.

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