Xin Chào from Việt Nam,
When certain elements of a society clamour for the removal of certain statues, it’s all about the actions and ideologies of the individual. And how those actions might appear to be anachronistic or hurtful in a modern context. Leopold II in Belgium is spattered with bloody red paint. Robert E. Lee is brought down in a park in America. Even James Cook is seen as problematic in New South Wales.
Perhaps the answer is to avoid human statues altogether. Or to have national heroes such as Kemal Ataturk depicted in groups. What about commemorating unsung heroes, as they tend to do here in Việt Nam? These are the people whose “contributions were sometimes very silent”, says one interpretation sign at the Southern Việtnamese Women’s Museum in Hồ Chí Minh City, which matches the National Women’s Museum in Ha Noi.
The massive statue of Nguyễn Thị Thu in Tam Kỳ is a magnificent monument to a woman with an uncommon story. No-one will ever want to tear it down.
Nguyễn Thị Thu is one of 19000 Vietnamese women who have been honoured – sometimes posthumously – as Heroic Mothers. In her case, she lost 11 sons and grandchildren in the war. Although her nine sons never came home, and whose remains have never been located, Nguyễn Thị Thu survived them all and died at the age of 106. This is what is described in the Southern Women’s Museum as “losses suffered . . . the most incurable wounds in hearts”.
the long hair army
There are many other mothers modestly remembered in the same museum. For instance, Trần Thị Viết also lost multiple descendants in the long war. She was enrolled in the militia and helped to dig the Củ Chi tunnels. Many others were directly involved in the “long hair army” but many were busy in civil service as well.
These are women who have endured “many dedications and sacrifices to the cause of liberation and defence” of the nation. Interpretive signs quoting Hồ Chí Minh himself described them as “heroic, undaunted, loyal and responsible”. One of the reasons for Việt Nam’s military success was the active and fearless participation of women in many roles. The saying goes, “when enemies attack the home, women fight”.
Women’s Museum – Ho Chi Minh City
The Southern Việtnamese Women’s Museum, found in a street named after Võ Thị Sáu (herself a national hero), contains stories of bravery and stoicism. And the magnificent monument to Nguyễn Thị Thu, in the township of Tam Kỳ, is fitting commemoration of the sacrifice of a heroic mother who never left central Việt Nam in her long life. The statue is 18.6 metres high and 120 metres wide, made of granite. Designer Đinh Gia Thắng said the flowing mane of the monument represents an enormous stream of the national soul. He wants it to symbolise mothers delivering brave children who become Việt Nam’s mountains and water.
Can you ever imagine a circumstance in which anyone wants to tear it down? In the words of the museum’s curator, “They deserve to be glorified in honours lasting forever, as precious lessons for future generations”.
Hẹn gặp lại from Việt Nam,