The Creative Industries of Cambodia Association for Development and Advocacy (CICADA) has been making waves in the cultural and creative industries since its formation in 2022.

The association’s mission is to represent and advocate for the sector, ensuring that it is at the heart of political, economic, and social decision-making.

“CICADA has a vision to see Cambodian society thrive as the creative and cultural industries are valued and progress to their full potential,” said Onn Sokny, country director of Epic Arts and a vice-chair of CICADA.

She said CICADA is registered with the Ministry of Interior and is working on becoming registered with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. It works for the Cambodian arts and culture community, and is currently working on three goals.

First, it is seeking support and promoting the role of creative and cultural industries. It works on research, news, art and culture, as well as work related to labour law, to help protect the rights of artists who need anything related to art and culture.

Second, it involves community-based arts, creativity and capacity building, such as short-term art and cultural training, and the sharing of experiences between countries and regions.

Finally, it serves to represent the voices of the art, culture and creative industries in Cambodia.

CICADA has achieved many key milestones in its short history, and its ongoing programmes are testament to the organisation’s commitment to developing a sustainable and inclusive infrastructure for the cultural and creative industries.

Recently, CICADA presented two research findings that covered mapping the landscape of human resources in cultural and creative industries, while highlighting key indicators in these industries.

Young Sokphea is a lead researcher who produced a project titled ‘Human Resource Mapping in the Informal Cultural Sector’. He said that recent on online and in-person questionnaire surveys of a total of 414 artists and workers from different parts of Cambodia, as well as unstructured interviews with seven key informants, shows that two-thirds of informal cultural artists and workers are males.

“Most artists and workers are self-employed and most of them are those working in music and performing arts,” he said.

“Most of them have never received any benefits such as insurance or social protection,” he added.

The findings are critical to the development of the sector, providing insights into the workforce and the industry’s potential for growth, claimed CICADA.

Another significant achievement is the Stand for Culture Fellowship, which provides support to emerging artists and cultural entrepreneurs.

So Phina, president of CICADA, explained how the organisation selected its name.

“The CICADA is an insect that sings in vain, but forgets to grieve for itself. We chose it for the way it sings regardless of who is listening,” she said.

Six institutions co-founded CICADA – Phare in Siem Reap, Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, Bophana, Baramey Production, Cambodian Living Arts and Epic Arts, although several other art associations have come on board.

“These institutions and associations have joined together to help artists, as they were affected by the Covid-19 crisis, just as member of other industries were,” she added.

She continued that CICADA will continue to work closely with artists and cultural professionals throughout different cities and provinces to fulfil its vision of a diverse and flourishing Cambodian society where cultural and creative industries are recognised, valued, and thriving.

Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO country representative, congratulated CICADA, despite its recent origin.

“We should not forget or underestimate the power of artists or those in the creative industry, because they can work together to build our community and build peace for the nation,” he said.

“Cambodia is a signatory to the 2005 UNESCO Agreement on Freedom of Expression and Cultural Diversity. This is a testament to the government’s commitment to artists,” he added.

He stated that UNESCO would support CICADA’s efforts, while continuing to work closely with the culture ministry.

A recent panel discussion, “Voices from Cultural and Creative Industries”, was a resounding success, with guest speakers sharing their experiences in the film, music, and craft sectors.

“Artists have the opportunity to make a living using their talents. We want to help not only their livelihoods, but also the nation,” said Pen Monimakara, culture ministry secretary of state, at the second annual congress, held in late March.

“We know that Cambodia has three major sources of revenue: agriculture, tourism and the garment industry. What we do not yet use besides culture in tourism is creativity. Building on this is one of the ministry’s main future goals,” she added.

The March 24 panel discussion featured many guest speakers with years of experience in the film, music, and art sectors.

Sang Sokserey, a rapper and Stand for Culture fellow, was one of the speakers.

“I have observed the significant role that the cultural and creative industries play in contributing to economic growth and promoting Cambodian identity on a global level. Promoting cultural and creative industries equally means supporting and creating opportunities for the artists to unleash their potential, talents and creativity through different mediums,” she said.

“This will not only promote Cambodian arts and culture but also contribute to the tourism industry. Once the Kingdom begins to be known as a cultural hub, this will be a catalyst for more and more visitors to see us as an attractive destination. This in turn will lead to improved livelihoods for informal workers,” she concluded.