We arrived to Siem Reap on March 6th to set the exhibition up at Krousar Thmey Exhibition Hall, merging it with their exhibition about Tonlé Sap, which is currently shown there.
Krousar Thmey has two different centres in Siem Reap. One is an orphanage where kids without parents or with difficult backgrounds live and learn and the other is the school for deaf and blind students. This second one, where we developed our conjunct activities, is located on the road that goes to the temples, which is pretty beautiful, wide and surrounded by big trees. The Exhibition Hall was really nice too, a two storey building placed at Krousar Thmey School front.
It took us two days setting the exhibition up, in order to merge it in a proper way that enriched the global exhibition formed by the integration of the two existing ones. We needed to look for ways to hang most of the photos on the second floor, where the space was not enough for the collection. We came up with the idea of creating transparent walls with fishing nets, what gave us the opportunity to hang the images without losing light or having the feeling of a narrow space. Everybody seemed to like it as it matched really well with the others parts of the exhibit which had canoes, baskets, fish tramps… etc.
The inauguration was on March 9th, during the evening; we held an improvised informal event inviting the children from the school to be the first to visit. They run up and down, watching every picture, asking, commenting, touching and laughing. After a while, they focused on the drawings from the activities in the villages, which we had included this time in the exhibition as an important part, enhancing the global dialogue. They wanted to participate too so, after asking for permission, they started creating their own drawings. So many kids participated and with so much enthusiasm, that we run out of paper.
ACTIVITIES AT KROUSAR THMEY SCHOOL
This time we wanted to do so many things that we had to divide the team.
Nolasko prepared some photo with the deaf students activities to explore the relationship between our feelings and water, by observing water in nature and in our surroundings.
María and Berta organised some activities related to water and culture. We wanted to research on traditional stories to create two Radio Theatres with the blind students.
ARTISTS OF WATER: RADIO THEATRE
We developed this activity with two different groups, one during the mornings and one in the afternoons. Both groups were very enthusiastic and loving, but very different between them.
In the mornings one, the participants were older and more intellectual; they were very interested in music and literature. The students in the afternoons one were younger, with more curiosity about the performing part and a strong need of movement.
There was a pleasant feeling of cooperation inside the groups and between them. Every day they asked about the process of the others and they were happy to acknowledge improvements on them. We were lucky as well to count on the help of teacher Mr Panha, who was even more involved than the students and collaborated with us as a member of team.
The morning group was very fast finding a story; they knew many traditional tales related to water. They chose The fight for the rain. The afternoon one didn’t know any, so, finally, they adapted one that Mr Panha had invented, The cursed river.
When coming to the performance they were all a bit shy at the beginning, but they started enjoying soon, what gave as lots of moments of laughs.
During all these days, we had been bringing the sounds that they requested for the story: frogs, river sounds, swords etc. We had to look for a variety of them, as they were always expecting to have the chance to choose at least among three options. The decisions were made meticulously and reached unanimously.
Two students from the morning group surprised us bringing six different soundtrack proposals recorded and performed by them during the weekend. Of course we include this music in both Radio Theatres… but those weren’t all the surprises…
The last day, when were just supposed to record the credits, they came with a proposal; the group had composed a song, music and lyrics, to be played before the end of the story. A song that summed up the plot and celebrated the return of the rain. A song where the lyrics made the promise of taking care of rivers, ponds and lakes… we were just astonished. They played it alive and we recorded and included it. The story was finished and we all felt happy and proud.
ARTISTS OF WATER: WATER-PHOTOGRAPHY
There were two groups of deaf students. Nolasko was especially pleased to develop these workshops, as they could get a good level of communication.
Sign languages are different in every country: in Cambodia there used to be a sign language that, as everything else related with culture, disappeared during the Khmer Rouge period. After then, there wasn’t a cohesive deaf community, the signs were lost and nobody knew the complete language. Someone went to United States and learnt ASL (American Sign Language), importing it to Cambodia bringing a good base to have a complete communication experience. ASL mixed with the Cambodian signs that were remembered from the old times were taught at deaf schools from the nineties and on. Nowadays, the ASL influence is still very strong and, even though they continue doing big efforts for recovering the Cambodian Sign Language, there are still around 60% of American signs. This situation favored the communication between Nolasko and the participants, as he already knew some ASL, just as English for hearing people ASL has a big influence all over the world.
INTRODUCING PHOTOGRAPHY: GUIDED TOUR
We did a guided tour through the exhibition by means of a game in which the participants had to identify and look for the photographs that contain or express the requirements indicated by the teacher. Meanwhile, we introduced THROUGH WATERS CAMBODIA and ARTWATERENESS project and we presented the artist and his/her origin, the place where the photo was taken and, together with the audience, we built the explanation of the image.
Both groups, morning and afternoon ones, started the tour very quiet. They were focused on listening to the teacher’s explanation. Little by little, they started being more and more participate, giving varied answers to the questions. At the end, they were the ones asking many questions about the project and exhibition. Many of them wanted to join us with the bikes!
UNDERSTANDING THE PHOTO-CAMERA
We traveled through the history of photography by means of a sequence of images, showing them the evolution and how more and more people have access to this technology. After this, some tips of the usage of a digital camera and basic composition rules. By watching several images with different compositions, we analysed what seemed more and less balanced, which ones were more interesting, or showed a clearer message and why, extracting the basic rules of image composition. We finalized putting in practice what we had already learnt by taking pictures of the classroom and surroundings.
They were very participate while understanding the basic rules of composition, but, for sure, the best moment was the practical usage; they were eager to have their own camera and they were very motivated about trying to make their own photos.
WATER IN OUR FACES
We looked at many water images around the world related to climate, bodies of water and human impact on nature. Afterwards, in pairs, they chose one image to work with and try to characterize it with a facial expression. Each person did one expressive proposal corresponding to the image. Finally, they made a drawing together that represented the chosen image.
They worked really hard to get a result they felt satisfy with. It was wonderful realizing that the quality was very high, and the drawing accompanying the pictures complete, and full of details.
We wanted to work with water and movement, capturing it, trying to get a three steps story of a person that enters in contact with water.
They had to define the three steps: the beginning, the middle, and the end, and to shoot them.
TELLING WATER STORIES WITH OUR BODIES
We divided the class in groups of four. Each group was composed of one camera, one leading role, and two other actors who represent water.
The students had to tell a short situation about water without verbal language. For example, a house that is being flooded, a motorbike running through waters, somebody swimming or jumping into the swimming pool…
IMAGE LANGUAGE AND CREATIVITY
First, we went through different images about water; we discussed and share about what we saw and we learnt some image language theory while getting inspired by other artists’ work about water. Afterwards, with all that information, we researched individually on ways of expression to share our ideas and feelings; we played with composition and image language, trying to express an idea, feeling, emotion or sensation.
We screened the videos and all the photo-work developed in this workshop with the students. The participants celebrated their pictures and videos, and we all were proud of the general result.
For us, it has been an enormous pleasure working with these creative, participate and willing students. It has been an amazing and enriching experience for all of us.
Thanks a lot to all the team form Krousar Thmey for being so supportive, it has been a real pleasure to partner with you since the beginning, thanks Alix and Hervé for starting this up.
Mr. Pothra has performed his host role perfectly and, exceeding it, not only he connected us with the key contacts to develop our work, but he also became a qualified translator, a regular participant and a loyal spectator with a great sense of humor. Thanks to Mr. Long, always willing to help, who organized everything we asked him for so the exhibition was according to our guidelines.
We would also like to thank the school board, the director San Sophal, Mony and Pira, for easing the development of our workshops.
Our special thanks to our assistant teachers.
Mr. Panha, we hope that you enjoyed it as much as you transmitted, without your support it wouldn’t have been possible to get such pro stories.
Mr. Nuon Leak and Mr. Tun Bantang, thanks so much for your collaboration, both for a better development of the activities and for accompanying us in this wonderful and useful immersion in Khmer Sign Language during this time, also supported by the kind Mr. Chheng.