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Road safety inspires Battambang artists’ Equinox exhibition

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Four artists from the Battambang-based Trotchaek Pneik collective have taken part in an exhibit to raise awareness of road traffic accidents in Cambodia.

The CHO (Khmer for “Go”) exhibition is currently being staged on the ground floor gallery of Equinox Bar near Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka. An assorted display of ink and oil paintings depict abstract representations of road trauma.

In one work by Roeum Sokhom, who is currently out of the country to exhibit in Paris, a broken sandle and debris from a motorcycle litter a canvas painted in the style of grey asphalt.

Another piece by the same artist shows helmets at rest on the handlebars of a bicycle, rendered with the same gravitas as the helmet perched on the rifle of a resting soldier.

Many of the works have been drawn from the lived experience of the artists, with three of the four exhibitors falling victim to traffic accidents in their hometown at various times.

“I’ve been in accidents two times,” said Hiek Vila, a 25-year-old member of Trotchaek Pneik and one of the exhibitors. “The first time was two years ago, I was riding a moto with my mother and father and we were hit by a car. We were lucky we weren’t hurt more.

“The second time I was riding back to Battambang on the highway. There were people crossing the roads with baskets on their backs. I couldn’t see well because it had just gone dark, and I hit a gas bottle that someone was carrying. I had to spend a few days recovering in hospital and then much longer doing the same at home.”

Exhibition organiser and fellow Trotchaek Pneik member Reaksmey Yean said that the recent death of the long-serving Governor of Kratie province, Kham Phern, was a timely reminder of the need to educate motorists about road safety.

After staging a similar event at Meta House next year, Reaksmey Yean says the collective would like to stage a bigger event on the theme at the end of the year, incorporating outdoor exhibits, performing arts and educational workshops.

An Asia Injury Prevention Foundation report found that traffic accidents in Cambodia caused 1,816 deaths and 6,718 serious injuries in 2010.

The cost to the national economy of road accidents was US$279 million in that year, a staggering one percent of the country’s gross national product.

Motorcycles are involved in two-thirds of all road traffic accidents and their drivers and passengers accounted for 77 per cent of all road fatalities in 2010, partially as a result of laws exempting passengers from wearing helmets.

Hiek Vila, who completed his works over three months while balancing his other professional commitments in Battambang, says he has been proud to be a part of a campaign to raise awareness of the scourge of Cambodia’s endemic road accidents.

“After my experience, I think it’s very important to educate people on road safety, which is why the four of us have been part of this exhibition,” he said.

The CHO exhibition will be staged on the ground floor of Equinox in Phnom Penh until June 15.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Gleeson at ppp.lifestyle@gmail.com

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