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

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there