About the Exhibition
From January 8 through March 6, 2005, the NCSU Libraries is hosting an exhibit from the Smithsonian that explores Vietnam as a country rather than a war. Vietnam: Journey of the Heart features fifty-two color photographs of contemporary Vietnam by Geoffrey Clifford and descriptive text by John Balaban, professor of English and poet in residence at NCSU. Installed on the mezzanine of D. H. Hill Library, the exhibit is free and open to the public.
Vietnam: Journey of the Heart was organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
Geoffrey Clifford was a 21-year-old American army lieutenant when he first arrived in Vietnam in 1971. Flying combat helicopter missions over central Vietnam, the young pilot was awed by the terrain that unfolded below him. Between missions, he was restricted to his secured military perimeter, unable to experience firsthand the landscapes, cultures, and people that surrounded him.
In 1985, 13 years after leaving Da Nang, Clifford visited Vietnam in the first organized group tour of the country by American veterans. Now a professional photographer, Clifford uses his art to make sense of breathtaking landscapes, ancient cultures, and gracious people — a world that had previously been hidden from him by the turmoil of war.
Since his first postwar tour, Clifford has made 17 successive returns to Vietnam. His photographs of life in modern Vietnam speak to his own experiences of discovery of Vietnam and its resilient people. The photographs contrast timeless pastoral scenes with views of a modern culture beginning a new century. Clifford’s images visually recover the beauty of Vietnam for those whose only memories of this nation stem from grim wartime reports.
Exhibit script writer John Balaban first went to Vietnam in 1967 as a conscientious objector. As part of his alternate service, he volunteered for an organization that secured medical assistance for severely injured children. He returned in the early 1970s to record and translate the body of traditional Vietnamese oral poetry known as ca dao, which he subsequently published. He collaborated with Geoffrey Clifford on a book entitled Vietnam: The Land We Never Knew (1989), a project that inspired this exhibit. Recently, he helped publish the first dictionary of Nôm, the Chinese-like script that Vietnamese used for 1,000 years to record their own language and their vast heritage of poetry, history, medicine, and religion. (For more information, read this NCSU news release from Nov. 16, 2004.)
The author of twelve books of poetry and prose, Balaban has received numerous honors for his work, including the Academy of American Poets’ Lamont Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, two nominations for the National Book Awards, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He currently teaches creative writing at North Carolina State University.