16:22′ 08/05/2007 (GMT+7)

A photo by Nguyen Kim Hoang
A photo by Nguyen Kim Hoang

VietNamNet Bridge – The HCM City Department of Culture and Information has recently refused to give permission for a nude photo exhibition titled Closer by female photographer Nguyen Kim Hoang, sparking a debate on censorship.

A dispatch No. 967/CV sent by the HCM City Department of Culture and Information to the HCM City Art Association on April 18, 2007, says: “The beauty of Vietnamese women is a secret beauty. All the photos in the exhibition capture and display the most sensitive parts of the woman, so showing this exhibition to the public wouldn’t be suitable to Vietnamese values and customs.”

According to Uyen Huy, Vice Secretary General of the HCM City Art Association, the “most sensitive parts of the woman” are nothing more than the chin, the arms, the back, the shoulders, the elbows and the breasts, and these are “merely beautiful images of bodily curves and lines.”

“There is absolutely no obscenity, sexual stimulation, or violation of values and customs at all. Perhaps since these photos were shot at a close angle, the department hesitated,” said Uyen Huy.

For her part, photographer Nguyen Kim Hoang said she was willing to shelve photos considered inappropriate if necessary. Yet, she was completely surprised to hear that her works were rejected because they were “unsuitable to Vietnamese values and customs.”

It seems that nude photos can be shown alongside other types of works in an exhibition. But Vietnamese censors are yet to okay an exclusively nude project, though they have recently granted permission for the screening of movies with unusually “hot” scenes like Hired Birth, When Men Are Pregnant, the White Silk Dress or Shoot As It Rings.

According to Chu Chi Thanh, Chairman of the Vietnam Photographer’s Association, neither the Ministry of Culture and Information nor the Vietnam Photographer’s Association forbids the artistic exploration of nudity.

“Local authorities may not be able to differentiate obscenity and acceptable things very well, so they hesitate. But I think such hesitation isn’t suitable any more these days. We are posing for global integration, so our social attitudes must be objective and open-minded and we should know how to tell the difference between beauty and obscenity,” said Chu Chi Thanh.

Chairman Thanh also said that by the end of this year, the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Vietnam Photographer’s Association would organize an unprecedented conference on nudity since these two authorities haven’t developed special guidelines on this subject.

(Source: TN)