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Paper folding a 'life passion'

An exhibition at the French Cultural Centre showcases the creations of origami professionals and the inventive designs made by students during three weeks of workshops in Phnom Penh.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN

Origami temples of Angkor produced for French Cultural Centre exhibition.

Photo by:

HENG CHIVOAN

More than 1,000 paper cranes were produced during the three weeks of workshops at the French Cultural Centre.  

More than 1,000 paper cranes dangle from the ceiling of the French Cultural Centre. Hung up to portray the image of Angkor Wat, they symbolise life and longevity to Cambodians and are the product of three weeks of workshops aimed at promoting origami in Cambodia.

The workshops, running since February 9,  have been a prelude to an origami exhibition, which will showcases some of the participants' creations.

In japanese folk culture, one who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish

Sponsored by Phnom Penh's French Cultural Centre and Japan's Origami association Pli Arts, the practical workshops aim to bring origami to people of all ages and nationalities in a hands-on environment.
The two-hour-long classes have presented an opportunity for people in the capital to learn origami from two professionals, Khmer-French artist Aline Yanak and Japanese origami expert Naomiki Sato.

Yanak, who moved to France when she was three years old and studied fine arts at the Paris Design School, has spent the past week folding her interpretations of the temples of Angkor.

Each temple has been carefully crafted out of a 1.2-metre sheet of specialized origami paper, with the largest temple standing at 30 centimetres tall.

Yanak said the origami classes proved a huge success, with approximately 70 people of various ages attending the first session.

And the  colourful cranes made by workshop students have a special significance.

In Japanese folk culture, one who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish, a tradition made famous by Sadako Sasiki.

Sasiki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She developed leukemia but continued to fold cranes until her death one year later.

Sato, who has travelled to Cambodia to take part in the workshops and the exhibition, is a qualified linguist by trade and works in Paris as a translator and origami teacher. His specialty is Kirigami or Japanese "Pop Up Art".

Having a keen interest in origami from a young age, Sato  - born in Japan but a resident of Paris since 2005, commented that the art of folding paper is not a skill that one can learn at a university, but rather a life passion.  

Traditionally, origami is learned from a very young age in Japan, Sato said.

He strongly believes that origami existed in Cambodia prior to the civil war and says he has met some older Cambodians who said they practised the art when they were young.

While people have expressed their interest to Sato in introducing the art into the Cambodian school curriculums, he believes that the special origami paper may be too difficult to obtain in Cambodia.

Pli Arts flew the origami paper for the classes from Japan to Paris and then to Cambodia.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN

Aline Yanak explains the art of paper folding at one of the origami workshops organised by the French Cultural Centre.

While in Phnom Penh, Sato spent time in Kampot and Kep, teaching origami to the region's deaf children in conjunction with Epic Arts, which promotes inclusion, social integration and community regeneration through the transformative power of creativity.

Sato, who has taught origami to deaf children worldwide, says he has had a similar experience regardless of the children's  nationality.

"Deaf children have a different attitude towards origami. Everything is visual. Some deaf children just watch and memorise the sequence, [while with] the hearing kids, you have to teach step by step," he said.

The foldings of Soki and Yanak will be showcased alongside pieces from workshop participants and the world's leading French origami master, Eric Joisel.

The exhibition opens at the French Cultural Centre tonight at 6.30pm and runs until March 21.

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