This time our itinerant photo collection was going to be held at the water station for the whole week. This made us especially careful in order to find the right way of setting the exhibit up, so it fulfilled the varied needs of the activities that we would develop in the near future.
We arrived one day before the opening event to get to know the space and to have time to find the best location for each image. Following our idea of taking art to the streets for everybody to enjoy it without being invited, we decide to hang most of the pictures from the water station’s fence and from the front yard walls. We made up a system with fishing thread and weights that gave us the opportunity to hang some of them floating in the space. It was a bigger effort than other times, but we clearly felt it was worth it.
The Water Station inauguration
February 25th a mark in RACHA’s calendar pointed out that the big day had arrived. The opening event had been prepared in detail by the team with as much time as care. The way to the station had been cordoned off and adorned and the organization had set up a tent with a stage next to the water station, where the invited authorities would be seated during the event. In the station space itself, our exhibition offered the visitors many different views on water that our international artists have shared with the world, enriching the dialogue on this essential element.
The day happened as it was expected to. The authorities arrived: first the District Governor, then the Province Governor, then the Minister of Health, and last, the Japanese cooperation representative, the donors; together with them, RACHA’s board, several local politicians and some monks completed the presidency of the event. The people from the village attended the it massively.
The tent was full and there weren’t enough chairs for all the audience, who came nearby to listen to the speeches given by the different representatives of the institutions and organizations involved in the project. In them, they shared their concerns about the importance of the access to safe water, the efficacy of the system used in the water station and how profitable it would be for the community.
Later, time to formally inaugurate the water station by the traditional ribbon cutting.
RACHA’s team led the authorities to a guided tour through the installations, which included checking the working certificates, and they all finished giving water to the neighbours from Thma Puok who went to the opening event.
The media coverage of the event was pretty abundant due to the public relevance of the attendants. Anyway, it was funny to see how, while everything was under strict control inside the water station, the life in its surroundings continued with normality and people kept on with their lives without changing them a bit because this or that one (who usually they see only on TV) were visiting the village. We don’t know if they would realize when watching the event in the news or if, being aware of everything, they weren’t interested in who was there.
Afterwards, we went to have lunch with the team and some of the local representatives to celebrate that the water station was on and that everything had gone well and, in the afternoon, we started our activities.
Guided tour through the exhibition
A group of forty five students from Thma Puok Secondary School was going to be our working group during that week. They got to the station at two o’clock riding their motorbikes, which invaded half of the yard. It was very hot, so, after a brief intro about the station performance by Than (the person who RACHA had assigned to support us during the days of the workshops) and a short explanation of Through Waters project, we began to visit the exhibition, this time with a game.
We launched questions about the images and they had to identify which ones we were referring to; then, based in the observed object, we did an explanation of the author and the photograph, always going ahead in the info in a participative way, trying that the participants guessed the artist’s intention or the places where the photos had been shot. It was very hot and the fact of being getting in and out of the water station helped us a bit avoiding the sun from frying our heads.
The participants seemed very amused and they even gave unexpected answers to our questions, linking some images with questions in a way we hadn’t thought. There are definitely many approaches when looking at an image; it was interesting for us to learn more about the different points of view, about where each person focuses on.
Exploring artistic forms
We could see through the game that the artists expressed ideas, emotions, claims, concepts… So we proposed the students to become artists in the dialogue of water, having the chance to practise and express themselves by means of different artistic techniques: painting, photography, collage and drama.
Painting: first expressions…
We asked the participants to share their own views on water in couples and we gave them papers and colours and they had to agree what to express and how to do it.
Afterwards, we collected the drawings and showcased them, integrating them in the exhibition. We could feel that the group was more mature than the ones we had worked with in previous occasions and they have more varied and interesting reflections. Despite some of them were extremely shy, finally all shared their artworks.
Shooting photographs: capturing reality…
As usual, we try that our activities enrich our partner’s work. This is why, when we proposed the participants to capture their reality in photos, we asked them to do it under certain parameters. Half of the group would look for good practices in water management and the other half should find bad ones. We all went for a walk; different little groups spread over the village, talking to the neighbours who, kindly, opened their homes to be photographed. Before the walk, we had given them a tutorial in the proper use of our Canon cameras and some pieces of advice about composition; it is really amazing how they interiorize the visual language.
Composing: joining pieces of reality to generate a fiction…
Next day, we continued the work. We delivered the images randomly among groups and they built collages by cutting them and mixing them with drawings and texts. Some had comic structure, others told about the reality of a Cambodian house. It took them quite a long time to agree and structure the photos that their group had. There was debate, but all the discussion was peaceful and it looked like they could find intermediate solutions. Some especially enjoyed the design of the houses, they seemed professional architects in search of precision with their rulers and markers, what didn’t let them much time to add colour to their creations.
Although at the beginning the idea of mixing technics made them feel a bit lost, later, they enjoyed researching how to merge photo and drawings and they were proud of their artworks.
Performing: creating our own story…
Sometimes we think that some of our proposals will be received with less enthusiasm. When we planned the activities for a group of teenagers we thought that using the body might be harder that others for them; even that, we risk to offer them to tell a story performing it using the video as a bait.
We were very wrong; not only they loved our proposal, but also they made an impact on us showing remarkable skills to create conflicts, organise scenes and improvising.
We set different scenes up in the yard and in the porsche of the water station: a house, a traditional Khmer doctor, an NGO, a hospital, a rice field, a school… The challenge was telling the story in a one-shot film, passing from one set to another without stop recording, so we could view the short films directly without editing.
They were splendid, fluent and smart. Although sometimes laughing beat them, they could focus and go straight to the story as we asked them, so the short films didn’t last more than a few minutes.
Closing the week
We screened the short films in the final party. We couldn’t see them very well because it was impossible to create a dark room in the water station space. We put blankets, fabric, cardboards… on the windows, but there were too many! We suggested watching it in the computer, but watching themselves in the big screen won; they chose to see it with the projector although the image was blurred by the brightness. It was a complete success, they couldn’t laugh more after every sentence.
To finish, a deputy of the district came to close the event. He gave a last speech about the pros of water and thanked RACHA and Through Waters for their support to the community of Thma Puok.
Our guides, support, interpreters, escorts… what else!
Than, Taren, Melvin the inventor, the people from the restaurant who fed us deliciously, our artists of water, the District Governor, the people from the community house where we were allowed to shower every day, the escort police… many thanks Thma Puok, we can’t ask for more!