Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Water-themed art proves thirsty work



Water-themed art proves thirsty work

The ‘water art’ project gave children cameras to create their own art about water.
The ‘water art’ project gave children cameras to create their own art about water. PHOTO sUPPLIED

Water-themed art proves thirsty work

The sun beat down on the thirsty Spaniards as they pedalled their mountain bikes through dusty Banteay Meancheay province.

“If there had been tears, we would have drunk them,” said Berta de la Dehesa, one of three NGO workers who have spent the past four months biking around the Cambodian countryside to implement their “water art” project.

Without a drop of the stuff in their canteens, Dehesa and her companions slogged on, conscious that they were far from alone.

For many living in rural parts of the Kingdom, water and the shortage of it is a constant anxiety, especially in times of drought, whether it’s needed to make a living from fishing or to drink.

Children eagerly wait to see their photos printed.
Children eagerly wait to see their photos printed. PHOTO SUPPLIED

With this in mind, Dehesa, Maria Peñalosa, and Nolasco Marante from the Italian NGO Through Waters set off in February for a total of five months, intending to hold photo workshops.

Through Waters promotes water culturally and scientifically and this latest project, titled Artwaterness, has shared water-themed photography by global professionals with local populations and collected new images for a future exhibition.

After starting in Phnom Penh, the three bikers visited more than 25 towns including more remote areas, staying in villagers’ homes, guest houses and pagodas. They carried high-resolution photos in a long cylindrical metal tube attached to their bikes.

In each village, they passed out cameras for inhabitants to take pictures of anything that made them think of water. The results were printed and hung for everyone to see.

“Art is not accessible to [many rural Cambodians] in their daily lives, and to make it accessible with something that is so essential and close to them, it’s a good way to merge both things, which is the goal of our project, Art and Water,” Dehesa said.

An additional role taken on by Dehesa, who dreamt up the project, has been interpreting for her colleague Marante, who is deaf.

“I live in a hearing world,” Marante said, adding he is conscious that while he can’t hear, others communicate with sounds and words and he does the best he can through watching and interpreting.

“But I really enjoy discovering new things in this world that I haven’t discovered before.”

Photos taken for the ‘water art’ project were put on display in the villages.
Photos taken for the ‘water art’ project were put on display in the villages. PHOTO SUPPLIED

In March the three stopped in Siem Reap and the Krousar Thmey centre for the blind and deaf where they brought their photo exhibit and workshop to the students.

Marante was able to communicate well, as Cambodian sign language has many similarities with ASL and International Sign Language and he picked up their vocabulary quickly.

Students were asked to create a radio show, and told a traditional Cambodian tale that centred on water. While the teacher read it aloud, all of the students translated it into Braille, poking the paper to indent it with a pen and a needle.

A morning class had recorded noises and music to accompany the story.

“They want the world to know about Khmer music and they want to tape it in both languages [English and Khmer],” Dehesa said.

There have been trials: on difficult days the team has covered vast stretches of between 45 to 50 kilometres, where there have been no houses or places to buy water.

They have travelled in the height of the hot season, waking in the hazy early mornings to make the best of the cool air, but the warmth of the villagers and excitable children who call “hello” from the side of the road have made the trip worthwhile.

“I think this is the most welcoming country I’ve ever been in,” Peñalosa said.

They will finish in Phnom Penh in early June, bringing with them their photo exhibition and artwork from their trip.

See their work next month from June 7 through to 27 at the Canon Exhibition Hall, #146 Sihanouk Boulevard.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.