Valuable lessons from Korea

Written by Suneet Chopra | Updated: Feb 3 2002, 05:30am hrs
After the news of the Havana Biennale, we have that of the Pyongyang Art Festival in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. The exhibitions of art are to take place in two phases: The first phase starts on February 10 and the second on April 5.

The works called for are from professional artists, amateurs, students, youth and children, who are to find a place in the state art exhibition, that of industrial art, junior art, souvenirs, computer art and a seminar on modern times and national art. And delegations are invited to be present for the exhibitions of their works.

The themes, too, are engrossing. There is, of course, a section on the pride of the Koreans who fought a historic war of liberation under their great leader, Kim Il Sung, and brought this country with a powerful cultural and political identity to building a socialist society. And that too in the face of a savage war unleashed against it by the US and its allies, with the US still occupying the South with its military and forcing the Korean people to submit to the most dangerous nuclear confrontation in the world.

It is evident that no one wants the US forces anywhere. Whether it is the erstwhile West Germany, Japan, Korea, Cuba or Afghanistan, the US occupation forces are not welcome. Indeed, why should they be After all, they have given us prime examples of the most savage crimes of war, like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the carpet bombing and massacres in Vietnam, the foisting of the Taliban on Afghanistan and support to the Pol Pot regime of Cambodia. Even today, with the US equivocation over Israels terrorism against Palestine and Pakistans against India, one cant find fault with those who are less than friendly to the US. So, I expect the section on Art works showing the ideal of anti-imperialism, independence, friendship and peace to be rich in content and quality.

Then there are sections in support of the reunification of Korea, children studying hard to develop science and technology, landscapes, and in solidarity with friendship schools. The fact that Indian artists have been invited to contribute works and are contributing (including some of our most talented ones) is extremely important as DPRK is one of those independent minded, self-respecting states that the US terms as rogues, while the worlds nuclear rouges are termed friends.

The vast majority of the worlds people are sick of this hypocrisy; and artists, naturally, are the first among them. That is why they have responded so well to this call even though time was short. Let us hope that in the future, we will get more time to organise a proper delegation of artists to that country.

DPRK has a number of well-known artists. Among them, there is Jong Chang Mo, born in 1931, and who studied at the Pyongyang University of Fine Arts. He has evolved a modern rendition of the traditional molgol technique with a modern approach that encompasses the Koreans desire to come together as one country again. Works of his, such as The Site Of An Old Home Near The Military Demarcation Line, and the curious situation in which birds and animals move freely while human beings are held back with nuclear weapons, is brought out subtly in works such as Though Birds Fly Freely, with birds flying across the border.

Another aspect that comes out sharply in Korean art is its skilled presentation of creativity as something close to labour and self-defence. A classic example of this is Paek Thae Soks sculpture, Enthusiasm, showing a young child fashioning a wooden gun wearing a Peoples Army cap. Here the artist shows unequivocally how, for those targeted by imperial designs, the future means both mastering skills and being able to defend oneself. For us who have fought against colonial rule and are now fighting terrorists foisted on us by imperialism, lessons from Korea are invaluable.