The Hungarian Orange is a Lemon

“It’s a tad more yellow, a bit sour…but it’s OURS”

This work takes a look at Hungarian identity as represented by the orange. The subject of representating identity through the orange was started by Péter Bacsó’s film A Tanú / The Witness (1969). The movie is a satirical comedy mirroring the political situation of communism in Hungary at the time of its occurence.

One event captured by the movie is the real occurrence of forced labour for the purpose of growing oranges despite there not being a suitable climate in Hungary. In the movie this is shown through one of the main characters presenting to a communist official the one good orange that they have grown in the orange research institute. During the ceremony titled “Előre a Magyar Narancsért” (translated to “Forwards with the Hungarian Orange”), before the orange is presented one character’s little boy eats it, resulting in a panic over what to present to the official. The characters come up with a plan to present a lemon instead, insisting that no one will know. When the official tries the orange (that is actually a lemon) he instantly puckers up to the sourness of the supposed orange and questions if it really is an orange. In response, a character proclaims that this is “the new Hungarian Orange, it’s a tad bit more yellow, a bit sour, but its OURS”. This scene became influential with “the “Hungarian orange” becoming a symbol for expressing the gap between the sweet party propaganda and the daily sour reality of socialist life.

Later on, the then-‘liberal’ political party Fidesz adopted the symbolism of the orange in their campaigns on progressing out of communist times. The Hungarian Orange represents who we are as a nation and how we have fought for what we believe in, the ideals of building a better state than what was. Metaphorically, the Hungarian Orange has constantly rolled backwards and forwards in its political views and ways of life. Looking around the exhibition space you will find the orange placed everywhere, representing that we aren’t repressed and restricted anymore, we should be free to be Hungarian in our own terms.

This piece is made in memory of my Hungarian grandparents, as their stories and treasures from their time have abetted me into exploring my own identity in being Hungarian.

Artwork includes Shock Worker of Communist Labour badge that was presented to my Grandmother.

Footnote: (n.d.). The Story of the ‘Hungarian Orange’ | Heinrich Böll Stiftung. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Apr. 2024].


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