Film festival, exhibition to empower Cambodian women to speak up

Kol Vicheka (left), co-producer of the VOICES exhibition, and Kaeu Sreypeou, the first Cham community member to graduate from the Royal University of Fine Arts. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

PHNOM PENH: Meta House is set to host the second edition of the Speak Out, Sisters (SOS) film festival from June 11-16.

Featuring an array of Cambodian and international films by and about women, it follows the successful February debut of the festival.

The day before the screenings get underway, Meta House will open the VOICES multimedia exhibition on June 10.

This exhibition will showcase a diverse collection of paintings, photos, sculptures and digital art by female Cambodian artists Ny Sreyroth, Sou Sophy, Sopheak Sao, Vicheka Kol, Sokreaksa Bung and Jinfeng Lin, along with Cambodian-American artist Amy Sanford.

“This year is dedicated to highlighting women's voices,” says Nicolaus Mesterharm, director of Meta House.

“We have found that focusing on women's issues is both significant and beneficial for Cambodian society,” he adds.

The project is co-organised by Kol Vicheka, who is actively involved in various cultural and artistic projects in Cambodia, and Emilia Emminghaus, one of the organisers of the SOS film festival.

The festival showcases films directed by Cambodian women that address sexual and gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge era.

Vicheka expressed her enthusiasm for the event, saying, “As a woman, I believe its a valuable opportunity to hear from other women and be inspired by their stories.”

She aims to inspire other girls to pursue their passions despite societal expectations. She highlights a member of the Kingdom’s Cham Muslim community who defied family pressures to follow her dream of becoming an artist.

“Her story serves as an example of empowerment, showing that dedication and self-belief can lead to success, encouraging other girls to follow their dreams and challenge traditional roles,” Vicheka tells The Post.

Emminghaus emphasises the multimedia nature of the exhibition, noting that it includes contributions from NGOs such as A21 and Daughters of Cambodia.

“We aim to showcase stories of empowerment and the diverse experiences of women, including their struggles and triumphs,” she says.

Emminghaus notes that the exhibition is part of a larger project aimed at reaching young Cambodian female artists.

She explains that curating the show allowed them to connect with these artists and that they hope to take the project to schools across the country.

The goal is to showcase both art and the voices behind it, which were collected through the curation process.

"For me, the two most powerful stories are Sreypeou, the first Cham female artist to graduate from the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), and Sreyroth's experience of violence in Thailand,” she says.

“Sreyroth's paintings vividly depict her ordeal and her way of speaking out about it, perfectly showcasing our aim with the Voice Exhibition to empower other girls and women to share their struggles,” she explains.

Kaeu Sreypeou, the first member of the Cambodian Cham community to graduate from RUFA, is one of the artists featured.

Sreypeou’s work aims to promote Cham culture, which is increasingly rare in the world of art.

With a passion for painting from a young age, Sreypeou aspired to become an artist and to showcase Cham culture, which is facing decline.

Sreypeou, who is preparing for her wedding at the end of June, tells the Post, "My first remarkable achievement after graduation was choosing to draw the 2-by-1.5-metre Malot flower cake festival”.

For the exhibition at Meta House, Sreypeou created two images of Cham women, one wearing a krama (Chbut) for attending mosque services and another in a bridal gown.

“I am very happy to be a part of this exhibition. I have the opportunity to show Cham culture to the members of the general public who visit the Voice exhibition," she says.

Ny Sreyroth, another artist in the exhibition, shares her powerful story through her art. She was the victim of a brutal acid attack in Pattaya, Thailand, in November 2022.

Despite the severity of the attack, Sreyroth’s resilience and determination are reflected in her work, which documents her journey of recovery and empowerment. Her art is being used in the promotional poster for the exhibition.

The exhibition also features contributions from international artists, including Emily Marques (USA), Ame Kunty (France), Aurélie Fischer (Belgium) and Anya Minko (Australia/Thailand).

“It is my privilege to show my work alongside these strong, inspirational women. Each of them is a reminder that together we can achieve our dreams and challenge people's preconceptions,” Marques tells The Post.

Additionally, NGOs such as Daughters of Cambodia and A21 will display handicrafts and artwork created by women who have survived violence.

Mesterharm highlighted the growing involvement of women in managing these projects.

“We now have many women actively participating and leading these initiatives,” he said, acknowledging the contributions of his team members.

The exhibition will also feature an open-air slideshow of work by the late Australian photographer Tim Page, Steve Porte (USA) and Nicolas Lainez (France/Spain), alongside music videos, video art and visual spots that explore women’s lives in Cambodia from the early 2000s to the present. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

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