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

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

New Orleans-based Water Seed joins Shawna Renee inside the "Soul Lounge" where they introduce listeners to their latest album, a wonderful fusion of jazz, soul and rhythm & blues. The group also explains how the heart of New Orleans influences each of them as musicians and songwriters.