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

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma