Art to expose Agent Orange disaster

Australian and Vietnamese artists are contributing works to an art exhibition in Sydney August 7-11 to expose the ongoing horror of the Agent Orange chemical warfare inflicted on the Vietnamese people by the US war in the 1960s and ’70s. August 10 is the 51st anniversary of the beginning of spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Eighty million litres of “herbicide” were sprayed on the forests, fields and people of Vietnam over 10 years, to deny shelter to the Vietnamese freedom fighters, and to deny them food and support from the local community. More than 3 million people were killed or affected, with terrible birth defects inflicted up to the third and fourth generations. US and Australian service men and women and their children have also been affected.

The exhibition aims to raise consciousness on the Agent Orange issue, and to raise funds for Vietnamese victims. It will launch a petition calling for support of victims, land remediation and recognition of Agent Orange health issues for all veterans, and calling for the governments involved to acknowledge their responsibility. The US government has acknowledged responsibility for its own veterans suffering the effects of Agent Orange, but still persists in denying a scientific connection for the Vietnamese victims.

The exhibition will be held at the Mori Gallery, 168 Day Street, Sydney, which has been kindly donated by gallery director Stephen Mori. The artists are donating their work, which will be available for sale through a “silent auction”.

Over the five days of the exhibition, there will be seminars and film showings each evening, as well as a bookstall with literature and DVDs on Agent Orange and the War in Vietnam.

The exhibition will be launched on August 7 at 6pm by NSW Governor Marie Bashir and Vietnamese Consul-General Mai Phuoc Dung. Kate Mulvany will be performing extracts from her award-winning play, The Seed, about the daughter of an Australian Vietnam veteran who was damaged by Agent Orange. Vietnamese food will be available.

The exhibition is in aid of the innocent children being born now in Vietnam with horrific birth defects as a consequence of Agent Orange/dioxin remaining in the soil and the consequential genetic damage continuing for generations.

Australian and Vietnamese artists

There is beautiful affordable art by Australian-Vietnamese artists (some of whom are victims of Agent Orange), Vietnamese artists and by well-known Australian artists, including a Dobell winner, an Archibald finalist and artists whose work is in state and national galleries and international collections. Participating artists include:

Suzanne Archer, Ray Beattie, Zanny Begg, Kim Browne, Elizabeth Cummings, Nguyen Nghia Cuong, Carol Dance, Carleen Devine, Vuong Trong Duc, Bonita Ely, Wayne Fleming, George Gittoes, Dominic Nguyen Hong Golding, Pamela Griffith, Kevin Hagarty Nguyen The Hung, Johanna Hildebrandt, Astra Howard, Gail Kenning, Dot Kolentsis, Nguyen Thi Chinh Le, Geoff Levitus, Carlie Lopez, Nerine Martini, Euan Macleod, Eszter Marossezky Khue Nguyen, Mai Nguyen-Long, Torbjorn Lundmark, Kelly Manning, Reg Mombassa, Hoai Thanh Pham, Nguyen Nghia Phuong, Susan Norrie, Phi Phi Oanh, Peter O'Doherty, Sue Pedley, Ambrose Reisch, Erik Royds, Van Rudd, Feyona van Stom, Nik Scott, Wendy Sharpe, My Le Thi, Mark Tippett, Sophie Verrechia, Fiona White.

PLUS drawings by cartoonists Robert Carter, Rod Emmerson, Eric Lobbecke, Alan Moir, Bruce Petty, Larry Pickering, David Pope, Nik Scott.

PLUS Photographs of victims by Hoai Thanh Pham.

PLUS contemporary art from 20 Vietnamese artists.

PLUS posters from the campaign against the war in Vietnam, Vietnamese political posters, and information displays.

Educational events

Informative DVDs will be screened at 6pm Wednesday-Friday:

Wed Aug 8: In the Year of the Pig. This 1968 Oscar-nominated documentary by Emile de Antonio chronicles the historical roots of the war on Vietnam. There will also be a PowerPoint explanation of the impact of Agent Orange.

Thurs Aug 9: Two documentaries from the Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA): Agent Orange /Dioxin and the Right to Life and The Path to Justice.

Fri Aug 10: Japanese director Masako Sakata’s 2007 documentary Agent Orange, A Personal Requiem. She was moved to take up film making after the death of her husband, a US veteran whose cancer was likely caused by exposure to the dioxin-contaminated herbicide during the Vietnam War.

There will be a seminar on Saturday Aug 11 at 2pm, exploring the impact of Agent Orange in Australia and Vietnam. Speakers include actor and playwright Kate Mulvany.

Agent Orange Justice

The exhibition has been initiated by Agent Orange Justice — Australia Vietnam Solidarity Network. AOJ was established in June 2011, with a launch meeting addressed by Mai Phuoc Dung, the Vietnamese consul-general, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, green bans activist Jack Mundey and Mike Karadjis from AOJ.

AOJ is the Australian section of the international campaign to hold the United States government responsible for the disaster it created for millions of Vietnamese people as a result of its decade-long spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971.

This international campaign is spearheaded by the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, and aims to pressure the US government and the chemical companies that produced Agent Orange, including Dow and Monsanto, to pay to clean up the toxic mess still contaminating parts of Vietnam’s environment and to provide adequate compensation to the Vietnamese who are affected.

Four AOJ members participated in the second international conference organised by VAVA in Hanoi in August 2011. Money raised by the art exhibition will go to VAVA to help the victims.

Since its launch, Agent Orange Justice has had modest but encouraging success. It has held forums and campaigned at political events. It has set up a very informative website and a Facebook page.

AOJ member Senator Lee Rhiannon presented a speech to parliament on the issue on November 8. Trade unions and other organisations have affiliated.

AOJ has ambitious plans to develop the campaign in the coming year. Further outreach forums will be held, including speaking at events and meetings of other organisations.

Contact AOJ to build or contribute to our events, or to join or affiliate: . Details of the week’s events are at agentorangejustice.org.au. If you have any questions about the art exhibition, please contact Carol Dance on 8060 6485 or 0403 194 174 or carol.dance@pacific.net.au.

Direct Action — July 6, 2012