by Lydia Parusol
The SurVivArt project in Cambodia is one of the first projects of this kind working together with the community. Visual contemporary art practice in Cambodia is very new and fresh. Mostly young artists are exploring little by little new techniques and open up for conceptual approaches. The three artists who were chosen to be the Cambodian participants, are all doing exactly this: exploring, reflecting on given situations, and looking for new ways. Still step by step, but – as we all know – the first steps are the most important.
Sophal Neak, the photographer, is the first one to have started her project. She is engaging her entire village Srok Kiri Vong, in the Takeo province, to participate in her rural exhibition. The women, those who are responsible for cooking in each of the 53 families, will be artists for one day. Sophal started in April to approach the families, speaking with the women, and asking if there is any interest in participating in this art community project. Since End of April we went twice to the village. Sophal interviewed and photographed 20 women who will be portrayed. She also spoke with the rest of the village women to be part of the installation activities, which will be on May 29.
Most of the villagers are rice farmer, as Sophal’s family, some are selling food beside vegetable or meat to the local market which is 7 km away. This small village might be not equipped with electricity or tap water – water is coming from wells within the village, shared by many – but people are making their living. They are okay with what they have. The center of the village is a Pagoda, or “Wat” as it is called in Cambodia. The Wat will be also the place in which the community art project will be realized. The center of the village on the grounds of the pagoda will be the “center of recognition” of all village women during and hopefully after the exhibition opening End of May. Sophal’s project is questioning social roles about Cambodia’s women duty, but at the same time she is bringing our focus on this daily task of cooking and enhancing each woman’s work to a higher ground. For a Cambodian woman cooking is not avoidable. She has to do it. It is an activity as Sophal said “important to hold the family together”. This project will bring a gift to this small village, to this hard working women like saying “thank you”. For the next two weeks we will be busy in preparing the installation and exhibition opening. We are looking forward to it: For the opening, the shared lunch and the presentation of Sophal about her reasons doing this project in her village.
Kanitha and Tevy are still in the conceptual phase. We will write to you more about both projects very soon.
We will keep you posted!