New art forms keep emerging among the young generation of Cambodians - from creating tattoo and clothes designs to composing their own music.
In Uoeung Bonsovathary’s case, her creativity found a niche in comics and novels.
Currently pursuing a degree in teaching at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, 23-year-old Bonsovathary has her finger in nearly every artistic pie including photography, writing, and visual arts, all of which are – in her words- “unprofessional.”
“I have too many interests to keep up with, but I consider myself lucky, because at least, I get to do a handful of them,” she said.
Inspired by the insanely popular blood-sucking vampire series Twilight, Bonsovathary wrote her own novel in the same genre entitled The Half Blood. But her novel is not based in fantasy; unlike Twilight, The Half Blood takes its theme and plot from scientific fact. “I would draw scientific theories and try to twist them up to my own conclusion in the story,” she explained, “so my book sounds kind of like a sci-fi and a paranormal genre at the same time.”
The Half Blood kicks off with a gifted teenage girl who finds out that she is a hybrid between human and vampire. The story goes on with suspense and drama in a struggle between humans and vampires claiming their power on the Earth.
Bonsovathary’s novel is unique in that the young Cambodian wrote it entirely in English, her second language, so as to appeal to both international and local novel readers.
“When I was a kid, the library was my refuge” said the young author. “When I received my private English education, my interest in English literature took over. It was funny that the first book I ever read was an adult one, and I was only 16 at that time, but when the words suddenly turned into images, and those images turned into a story, I realised I had found my new adventure.”
Though writing is her true passion, her creativity does not stop there. After taking comic classes at her university, she began to embrace her creativity through drawing. “I noticed our Khmer comic art was so popular in the past, but now it’s dying out, and I just don’t want to lose this awesome art, so I start it out on my own,” Bonsovathary said.
One of her most popular comics is Ginger The Kindergartener, or Komarey Khnei in Khmer. The ideas for the comic are inspired by her mother’s childhood – a time when kids were still walking around shirtless. With a glowing smile, Bonsovathary said, “I grew up listening to my mum’s stories, and I realise she has a lot of funny moments when she was a child. I started to make more comics based on childhood memories, and that’s how my mother’s childhood was incorporated into my art,”
Self-publishing on her blog can limit the number of her readers, but she doesn’t aim for a large audience. “For now, I’m just concentrating on getting my story finished and well-polished first.” She explained.
Feeling guilt with her first novel’s westernised setting, Bonsovathary said her second novel will be more ‘Khmer’ as a means of fostering Cambodian culture. She admitted, “So now I’m making up for it by writing a real Khmer novel and trying to make the story international reader-friendly with English language.”
As a message for other Cambodian youths, she said, “Creativity makes good art become great art. I think our reality would be more interesting if everyone believes that they are naturally creative.”
Uoeung Bonsovathary’s multi-faceted art can be seen at www.duckorino.blogspot.com
To contact the reporter on this story: Chanvetey Vann at [email protected]