Cambodia's Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) circus received a royal award last night from the Netherlands.
Courtesy of the 2012 Prince Claus Awards Committee, the Battambang circus and art school was granted €29,000 (about $37,100) for its “outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development”, according to the committee’s report.
The Dutch ambassador, Joan Boer, who personally presented the award at Romeet Gallery last night, said that PPS represents the “essence” of the award, which aims to promote the use of culture as a means of development.
“What [PPS] is doing is energising, in all the senses of the word,” said Boer.
“It is energising youth, it’s getting rid of the past and allows people to express themselves in new ways, where they don’t have this burden on their backs.”
PPS, which was founded at a refugee camp along the Thai-Cambodian border before moving to its present location in Battambang in 1994, teaches circus skills, theatre performance, music and visual arts to disadvantaged young people.
The circus’ visual arts director Srey Bandol, who helped found the school when he was a young refugee, said that he hopes the award will draw more attention and support for the school.
“We’ll get more support, more strength, and energy,” said Bandol. “We are very appreciative.”
Beatrice Barranger, executive director at PPS, said she is proud of the distance that the school has come given its humble roots.
““It started with nine refugees with absolutely nothing. Now it’s became a big organisation.”
The Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development annually awards 10 individuals and organisations for outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development.
Other recipients for 2012 include Burmese comedian Zarganar, Tunisian cyber-activist Sami Ben Gharbia and Argentinean publishing co-operative Eloisa Cartonera.