News / Arts & Entertainment

'Season of Cambodia' in NYC Showcases Classical, New Arts

Season of Cambodia' in NYC Showcases Classical, New Artsi
X
May 10, 2013 2:57 PM
Among some two million victims of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s were most of Cambodia’s artists. Much of their knowledge was lost with them, since Cambodian culture is still largely oral. But in the last few decades, new generations of Cambodian artists have sought to revive their culture’s classical arts and invent new forms. VOA's Carolyn Weaver reports
Carolyn Weaver
Among some two million victims of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s were most of Cambodia’s artists.  Much of their knowledge was lost with them, since Cambodian culture is still largely oral.  But in the last few decades, new generations of Cambodian artists have sought to revive their culture’s classical arts and invent new forms.

An international festival designed to further that renaissance, “Season of Cambodia,” brought more than 120 artists to New York to present dance and musical performances, visual arts exhibits, film, theater, workshops and talks in venues all around the city.

Phlouen Prim, executive director of Cambodian Living Arts, which organized the festival, said his group wants Cambodia to be known in the world for its arts and culture “and not just for the killing field.”

“It’s been three decades of work, from 1979, when a few of the artists who survived came back to Phnom Penh and worked on the revival process,” Prim said at the festival’s opening at the Rubin Museum of Art.  “Because we had that gap of generations, the difficulty was to connect the few survivors, the elder with the younger generations.”

The festival’s musical offerings ranged from singers chanting the sacred poetic form known as smot, to groups playing traditional Pin Peat wind and percussion instrumental arrangements, to a California rock band, Dengue Fever, which mixes Cambodian pop and American indie rock styles.  Him Sophy, a prominent composer of classical Cambodian music, presented a new work in progress that combined traditional forms from his country with a Western chamber orchestra and chorus.

Dance is the cardinal art of Cambodia, and the festival includes troupes and performances ranging from the classical to the avant-garde.  At the Guggenheim Museum, a new work called “Khmeropédies III: Source/Primate” featured seven male dancers trained since childhood to dance the role of the monkey, an important character in Cambodian legends.

Choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon worked closely with a Yale University primatologist, Eric Sargis, to study the movements of monkeys and apes from all around the world.

“In Africa, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, so monkeys they (the dancers) had never seen before,” Phuon said. “And Eric explained how these particular animals move or how they behave, and we observed that and made a dance out of that.”

New Yorkers also saw free performances of classical shadow puppet theater by the Wat Bo Troupe, one of the few remaining such companies. Against lit screens, performers wielded tall leather cut-outs that look like shields to retell stories from the Reamker, the Cambodian epic poem based on the Sanskrit Ramayana.

And the Royal Ballet of Cambodia made a rare visit to the United States to perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in another work based on sacred legends, "The Legend of Apsara Mera," choreographed by Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, a former prima ballerina.  Females take all the parts in Cambodian classical ballet, dancing as gods, princes, mermaids and ogres - all except for the monkey role, which is reserved for males.

“I can’t express how beautiful it is and I’m so excited, and I’m so lucky to have been here,” said one audience member, Khema Wright, at a post-performance reception.  Wright was a child when her family fled Cambodia. “To see my culture actually here in the United States, in New York, it’s amazing. I feel so privileged,” she said.

Her friend Chhaya Chhoum, who runs Mekong, a community organization for Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants in the Bronx, agreed. “A lot of our community members talk about how they just want to live to die, because they’ve suffered so much,” Chhoum said. “And I think the art really rejuvenates and awakens peoples’ sense of community, love and trust for one another again.”

Members of Chhoum’s group helped decorate a sculptural installation, the “Flowering Parachute Skirt,” the towering effigy of a soldier, by visiting artist Leang Seckon. The grisly, whimsical figure, with a skull for its head, was made with a parachute that fell to earth during the U.S. bombing of Cambodia in the Vietnam War.

Seckon invited Cambodian-Americans in New York to adorn it with fabric flowers cut from sarongs in his native village. The work was the centerpiece of a Season of Cambodia “ceremony of reconciliation” at Columbia University that included American Vietnam War veterans and Cambodians.

Arn Chorn-Pond, a flute player who is a founder of Cambodian Living Arts, was among those who spoke. “I never thought that the flute and speaking is power; I thought that only the burial of guns is power,” he said. “I was wrong.”

Chorn-Pond told the group how his flute-playing saved his life: first from the guards at the work camp where he was sent as a child, and later from his desire for revenge at the Khmer Rouge who killed his family, and the Americans who bombed his country. He was adopted by an American family but has since returned to live in Phnom Penh.

“The art can transform all of the suffering,” he said. “The healing would not be happening for me, I realize, if I do the things the Khmer Rouge want me to do, to kill and get revenge. And now I’m bringing music back to the Khmer Rouge, along the border, right in their face.”

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.