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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Waiter serves up artistic treat

Waiter serves up artistic treat

L ocal artist Svay Ken is making his contribution to preserving the culture of

his ancestors - a painting exhibition of scenes of everyday life in rural

Cambodia.

A farmer carrying a water can, people dining at the Royal Hotel

and farmers working their rice paddies, are some of the scenes Ken has brought

to life on canvas at the New Art gallery display.

Some show city life and

depict cyclo drivers, but his most popular work is of guests dining at the Royal

Hotel, where Ken worked for most of his life, as a waiter and caretaker. Many

guests who stayed at the hotel during that era have bought his

paintings.

"Painting was my hobby," said Ken, 61, who began painting in

1991, following in the footsteps of grandfather, Hol Touch, a well-known

national artist.

"I just bought my paints and canvases in the local

market and worked at my paintings in my spare time," said Ken, whose works are

primitive in style, and exuberant in tone, with bold colors and strong

outlines.

Ken was born into a rural family but moved to Phnom Penh to

find work. Although a waiter for 40 years, most of his works are of farmers and

fishermen.

"I want to preserve the culture of my ancestors," said Ken.

"For me, farmers are the symbols of Khmer culture. Khmer life is

farming."

One strong picture shows a thin, gray-haired farmer, carrying

water cans. "That man is a worker during the Pol Pot regime," explained Ken,

remembering the dark period when the whole country worked as forced labor in the

fields, and his father and five of his uncles and aunts died. The farmer's grim

expression, with closed eyes, is counter-balanced by the abundance of foliage

that surrounds him, painted in vivid greens and yellows.

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