After finishing in Kampot, I came back to Phnom Penh quickly to organize the collaboration that we had with Deaf Development Program (DDP) which, although it was scheduled for the first week of June, finally was postponed to the second one. We have already worked with them in Kampong Cham and this was our second workshop together.
On Monday, I went with Selwyn to see the centre that they have in the capital city. He showed me all the departments of the building: Sign Language, research, training, management… He introduced me to all the people who work there, including Father Charlie, founder and main engine of the project. I also had the chance to meet Justin, a very nice English deaf who was very happy to see the evolution in the education of deaf people in the country. We met to discuss and organise how the workshops would be during the week. Once everything was ready, we began setting up the exhibition with the help of some students in the porch of the centre.
We started the workshops with two groups, one in the mornings with ten students and another one in the afternoon with seven. All the students were deaf, the ones from the morning had only learnt Sign Language for one year and they were shier, the ones from the afternoon participated more, they were at level 2 and they had the language more interiorized.
We began explaining the project, this time basing our speech on more visual elements to ease the communication and then we did the guided tour through the photo collection. We had to push them a bit to participate, they were shy, but we asked them direct questions to enhance the conversation, we came to know the relationship with water in the houses where they grew up and in their daily life.
When the moment of starting using the camera arrived, we saw that none of them had used it before; most of them didn’t know Facebook or Instagram. We talked a little about composition of images by watching and analysing more and less balanced. Afterwards we went one by one learning how to shoot photos, how to delete them, how to play them…etc., but practising they got it. The afternoon group was a bit faster than the morning one in showing the understanding of the basis.
Our first activity consisted on looking for water in the building to practise: glasses, bottles, taps… The students went up and down searching any elements related to water and then they came back to the classroom. We still had thirty minutes left, so we spread a paper roll and started building a mural, so they could express themselves more freely by drawing water related things. At the beginning, they were also shy to draw, but little by little, they filled in the whole paper. Among the drawings, some origami figures started to appear: boats, canoes, flowers, birds,, stars… they knew how to make lots of different shapes which mixed with the drawings in a beautiful way. The afternoon group also showed great skills. We took the two murals downstairs to hang them in the entrance hall. Some of the staff members also joined the activity doing their own creations.
Next day we developed the body and water activity. The students were very motivated and, before leaving to shoot pictures, we shared our ideas in the classroom. Then, in pairs, we left to take pictures and we went with the students to help them supported by the staff from DDP. The afternoon group was more productive, as they had the chance to see the morning group carrying out the activity, more time to understand it and to think about some ideas. When we finished, we screened the pictures and, the shame appeared again when they shared their artworks and discussed the mistakes and improvements on the composition rules.
Last, we collected the creations and showed them to the centre in an event to which the members from DCC, Deaf Community Centre, a centre where deaf people meet to enhance sports and cultural activities in the community, also attended. We saw the artworks that the students had developed during the week and both the audience and the artists enjoyed it and clapped a lot.
At the end of the event we took some pictures together and we said goodbye. Before I left, they thanked ARTWATERENESS for giving them the opportunity to learn about many things by means of art, and we spent some time chatting for a while about the project and why we had chosen Cambodia to develop it; it was a very interesting conversation.
Later on, during the weekend, we developed some activities with the DCC. While they met to play their regular football matches, I offered the chance to see the exhibition (which we had set up there) and to learn a bit about photography. So, on Saturday morning I started with some students who had attended the workshop during the week and with others who came in the breaks between matches. The people came and went in a natural way and the activities were planned to be flexible. We taught the basics on the usage of the camera, or shared comments on the exhibition, changing from one to the other fluently. The participants knew lots of things and they enjoyed sharing them, about the waterfalls, the elephants’ fangs, Cambodia… Old and young ones mixed in the activities, going and coming, making the group grow and shrink dynamically according to the matches.
On Sunday the same scheme happened again; irregular and continuous participation, enough to learn and practice a bit about photography. Until it started raining a lot (we are in the rainy season); we could shoot the rain and the water slipping through the channels or dropping from the roofs.
In general, I think this collaboration was a success; the participants very much enjoyed it during the week and also in the weekend, in a more informal way.
Thanks to DDP for inviting us a second time. First, I want to thank Father Charlie in special, for his attention and for hosting our work. Also thank you to Justin, for managing the logistics and for being there to solve any eventual issues. Third, I’d like to thank Miguel Granados for helping us to define the programme, and for making everything easy and in Spanish, because he is from Costa Rica. Thanks always to Selwyn, for his care since the first workshops in Kampong Cham until now, facilitating our work with both DDP and DCC. And, in general, thanks to all the workers, who have had many cute details during our time together.