Ponley is a nice small village with charming and open people that grows alongside the National Number 5.
The exhibition was held in Ponley’s school, outdoors, along the facade of the east building. The way of setting it up was given by the teacher and the students. When we arrived with the pictures, they had already started hanging thick ropes from one window to another, covering the whole length of the gallery.
We continued with their proposal as we found interesting that they could interact with the exhibition as theirs. Touching the photographs, choosing the right place for each one, gave them some familiarity that, afterwards, helped us approaching the subject to the group.
We went one by one talking a bit about the pictures in a very basic khmer. The kids loved to ask about the places and to understand better what they were seeing. They were so opened to the activity that even interacted fluently with Nolasco, our deaf photographer, who was using sing language mixed with mimics to explain what they were seeing.
At the beginning, the corridor was so crowded that it was difficult to get the proper distance to enjoy the exhibit, but the excitement was too strong to get organized. After a couple of hours the corridor was less busy, but still many kids spent their free time observing and sharing comments with their friends about the pictures that were more relevant to them.
Our first drawings
The classroom was already full before our arrival. The teacher had to tell everybody to leave the room and let them enter again in groups of 30… This didn’t last much; slowly, the room was crowded again with people drawing and people looking. After some time, many of the ones who were too shy to participate went gradually taking first a paper, later a pencil, and, finally, sitting and showing their own vision about water, or just copying the neighbours’ one.
It was our first attempt with this activity, so we decided to give only some general guidelines offering a very flexible proposal, trying to get the pulse of what the kids wanted to talk about. The rules were simple, draw about water in your daily life: about your problems, your moments of joy, your ways of using it, or whatever you could imagine or would like to share. The results were as diverse as huge, 300 hundred drawings: many peaceful lake and river landscapes with mountains, some dirty ponds, fishing scenes, rain water tanks and wells, lots of houses, some images copied from tale books and one Sergio Ramos standing over water.
The activity lasted for more than seven hours and the next day some kids showed up again asking to keep on drawing. It was messy and enriching, a very stimulating initial contact; we have obtained many learnings from this experience.
Beginning with the photo experience
We couldn’t develop a photo activity for all with such a big audience, so we decided to propose the elder kids to come after school. Eleven kids came and we set our first photo experience. After a quick explanation in how to use the Canon compact camera, we went all together for a walk around the villages looking for sources of water to capture.
We crossed the field behind the school and arrived to a small wooden house. It had all we needed: the pipe system to collect water from the rain, some water tanks with the buckets and cover, a small pond at the back… The neighbour was very happy to have all these kids going up and down his property looking for different ways of photographing water. We accompanied them giving them composition tips to improve their pictures.
The neighbour explained us that it was a pity that we only could took photos from his pond, because there was a nicer one, but it was too far to walk there. So involved he was, that he resolved to take us all over a wooden platform towed by his small tractor. We liked it a lot and it was very surprising when we stopped only two houses farther! That was less than five minutes’ walk. Certainly the pond was… bigger?. We shot some pictures and came back to the school.
At our arrival they gave the cameras back with three preselected pictures, the ones they considered the best.
Next morning, we screened the selection and, one by one, the children stood up and explained what their pictures were about and why they had chosen these and not others.
The audience that morning was large and the children loved sharing their points of view, which were always received with the applause of the crowd.
Our supporters in Ponley
Having support is always useful, but getting it from the community you want to work with makes it definite. We want to give special thanks to these people who have opened the doors to our ARWATERENESS project.
Mein Pum , Pu Theuen.
Our host family in the restaurant.
Our host family visiting us at school.