Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The twins aspiring to empower kids, women through art, fighting

The twins aspiring to empower kids, women through art, fighting

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The twins say both painting and fighting have contributed to their sense of empowerment and boosted their confidence as women. Their art merges imagination and memory, with drawings about people, life and myths of childhood in Cambodia. Photo supplied

The twins aspiring to empower kids, women through art, fighting

Naturally, twins Sor Sophany and Sor Sophanin share a lot of common – not least their names – but most important among the pair’s similarities are two things; firstly their love for painting, as well as encouraging children to paint.

Secondly, when the twins put down their brushes, they wrap their hands and practice Bokator, an ancient form of combat first practiced by Khmer fighters more than a thousand years ago.

Sophany and Sophanin say that both painting and fighting have contributed to their sense of empowerment and boosted their confidence as women.

Born in 1989, the twins were raised in Siem Reap town, where the ancient temples of the Angkor Kingdom still bear carvings depicting Bokator.

University graduates in Finance and Banking, the twin’s parents initially disapproved of the women practicing a combat sport, so Sophany and Sophanin began learning Bokator secretly in 2015.

“I started learning Bokator in 2015 twice a week, every Saturday and Sunday. Now I am brown Kroma level,” 30-year-old Sophany said.

The sisters said safety, their interest in Khmer heritage and inspiring other women were the major reasons they started their Bokator journey.

“I was a weak Khmer girl. We cannot predict when there will be a problem, but if I know Bokator, at least I can defend myself before I receive help. I do love Bokator, but the word love is not enough. It is a part of Khmer heritage and I want to encourage Cambodian women to protect Khmer culture,” Sophany said, wearing her Bokator uniform.

But when not practicing Bokator, Sophany and Sophanin also find joy in helping each other in the art studio.

They’ve both loved art since they were kids, as they would decorate, draw and inscribe their books. But they initially put aside their passion to enter a field offering more lucrative jobs – finance and banking.

“Before I began work as an artist I worked as an account manager, but I felt unhappy with that job. I was stressed; I thought so much and could not sleep well. I didn’t want to wake up and go to work,” Sophany said.

“I studied art between 2009 and 2014 at Colours of Cambodia as I was fed up with my finance and banking job. Luckily in 2014, the teachers recommended I apply to become an art teacher at the organisation and my dream career started there. Working as an art teacher, I am delighted and want to go to work.”

Sophany is now a teacher and project manager at the organisation, while Sophanin in June took a break from her position as sculpture and stone carving manager.

“Currently Sophanin is helping our brother’s business. But she also helps me to teach the kids every Saturday and Sunday, and provides painting suggestions when I have an exhibition. Although she does a different job, she still helps the kids,” Sophany said.

The twins believe they can be the bridge that connects artists to the community by an environment in which children are encouraged to take part in the arts.

“Something has to change and we need to start from ourselves. I asked permission from the headmaster of a local school to teach children how to sketch and paint. I hope to help kids enjoy their childhood,” said Sophany.

Using their surroundings as inspiration, the twin’s own artwork reflects what they see every day, from violence to police harassment.

Their art merges imagination and memory, with drawings about people, life and myths of childhood in Cambodia.

“I want people to see what I see every day. I want them to see how things are where I live. I would like them to know the good times and the bad times I have seen,” Sophany said.

Their work has been displayed in local and international exhibitions, with their latest exhibition The Enlightened Child featured in March at the visual arts centre Dhoby Ghaut Green in Singapore.

Going forward, Sophany plans to add various art forms to the free art classes she provides at Colours of Cambodia.

“In the future, I want to expand and include other subjects, such as stone carving and timber design,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told