Let’s not forget Agent Orange victims

August 11, 2021 - 14:45

Võ Trâm Anh, a young Vietnamese French woman, has created graphic works to help people, especially the young generation, learn more about the history and consequences of the deadly chemical.


Võ Trâm Anh's graphic works is inspired by her father's journalistic work about Agent Orange. — VNA/VNS Photos Nguyễn Thu Hà 

Hồng Vân & Nguyễn Thu Hà

Six decades since August 10, 1961, the day the first flight carrying Agent Orange/dioxin sprayed the chemical over southern Việt Nam as a defoliant, millions of Vietnamese people are still feeling the losses and pain caused.

Now one young Vietnamese artist born in France has created graphic designs to help people, especially the younger generation, understand more about the history and consequences of the deadly chemical.

Võ Trâm Anh's work features 10 panels about the history of Agent Orange, its consequences on humans and the environment, and a micro-credit project set up to help disabled people in the areas affected by Agent Orange in central province of Quảng Bình. 

“Today images, videos, all the visual media are predominant. When you see a big bold image, it always catches your attention,” Anh told Việt Nam News in an online interview.

“To me making a big block of text into something colourful and attractive would draw people's attention even when it’s not a topic that they would have wanted to learn about in the first place.”

The exhibition will be on display at General Union of Vietnamese in France (​UGVF) in Paris until September 18.

Anh first learned about Agent Orange when she was a small child and her interest was inspired by her father.

She added: “I learned about the chemical at primary school age, like seven or eight years old. My dad is a photo journalist and he made a photo report about Agent Orange. He showed me the pictures of people who were exposed to it, consequences of people who were ill or malformed.

“I was young and shocked by these pictures. It stayed in the back of my mind somehow.”

Though six decades have passed, millions of people still bear mental and physical scars of Agent Orange.

Among 4.8 million people who were exposed to it in Việt Nam, hundreds of thousands have already died and millions of others are now suffering serious illnesses, deformities and disabilities.  

A Vietnamese French woman Trần Tố Nga filed a claim in 2014 against the multinational corporations that manufactured and sold the toxin which was used by American troops during the war in Việt Nam.

Her claims were refused by France's Evry Court in May this year yet the 79-year-old former war correspondent was successful in bringing the AO issue to international public debate.

People in France march to voice their support for Nga's lawsuit. — Photo courtesy of Duc Truong 

Anh, 22, is among hundreds of thousands of people across France who have voiced their support for Nga with movements and a range of advocacy activities.

She said: “The media began to talk about it [the trial] more. I remembered this and with my dad, we went to support events and followed the news.

“I want to share the fight of this woman. If people are aware of this topic, we can spread to the world, create a movement and make the world a better place if possible.”

Anh said the graphic elements would make her work more appealing.

She said: “In March this year I decided to make comic blog posts about it to make this topic more accessible and more widely known for the population.

“I think my audience is quite young so it’s the perfect way to portray the topic that is quite complex at first sight. It has a childish and colourful style, is easy to read and understand so it can make difficult topic more understandable.”

Anh said she hoped to bring her exhibition to the world.

She and the exhibition’s organisers have planned to translate her work into English, Vietnamese and German.

They are also trying to get a room at the city hall of the 13th arrondissement, home to Paris' principal Asian community.

Visitors gather at the exhibition at the General Union of Vietnamese in France. 

Võ Định Kim, a representative of Collectif Vietnam Dioxine, an organiser of the exhibition, said the display is one of a series of activities to mark the 60th anniversary since Agent Orange was first used in Việt Nam.

He said this is also a way for them to tell Agent Orange stories and the suffering of the victims, so they can raise their voice against Agent Orange and fight for justice.

Though Anh was not born in Việt Nam, she has felt an urge to learn about her country of origin.

“A lot of people like me who are Vietnamese but born in France don’t really know about the topic because it’s not something you learn at school. It’s always good to have a grasp of what happened in your country of origin especially this kind of topic which I think is upsetting. It’s also very unfair,” she said. VNS