Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An arts dynamo born in Site Two Refugee Camp

An arts dynamo born in Site Two Refugee Camp

Artist Srey Bandual, one of the founders of Phare Ponleu Selpak, with the new book produced by the organisation to celebrate its 20th anniversary
Artist Srey Bandual, one of the founders of Phare Ponleu Selpak, with the new book produced by the organisation to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Charlotte Pert

An arts dynamo born in Site Two Refugee Camp

Art education organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak will celebrate its 20th birthday tonight with the launch of an anniversary book.

20 Years, 20 Portraits profiles members of the Phare Ponleu Selpak community, from its original founders to newcomers.

Phare Ponleu Selpak started as a group of nine young artists whose interest in the creative arts was sparked while taking drawing and watercolour classes with art teacher Veronique Decrop at the Site Two Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodian border in the 1980s.

One of the original founders of Phare Ponleu Selpak, artist Srey Bandaul, will be introducing the book at the launch.

Bandaul said art was used as a kind of therapy to help young people deal with the trauma they had experienced in the camp.

“I think Veronique focused on art therapy to explore and get the trauma from our body to the painting,” he said.

The artist finds it difficult to remember the initial inspiration behind Phare Ponleu Selpak. At the time he was in his early 20s and living at Site Two. “The camp was like a prison, it wasn’t a place that you had freedom, so I think it’s the heart.

“It was inspired from the heart,” he said, of the founding of the organisation.

After leaving the camp in 1993, the group settled in Battambang and founded Phare Friends. In 1994 they renamed themselves Phare Ponleu Selpak, meaning “brightness of the art”.

Initially the organisation taught only drawing, but over 20 years has progressed to include a performing arts school, teaching circus skills, music, theatre and dance.

Phare Ponleu Selpak's development superviser, Benedicte Guilbert, said the book shows evidence of NGOs working and doing well in the art field and art education.

“It’s more like a testimony. For Phare Ponleu Selpak itself, it is proof that if you are really convinced what you are doing is right and trying really hard, you can go really far,” she said.

“It’s really a story of hope and self-commitment, and seeing that 20 years after we are still here and bigger and stronger than ever, it’s really fulfilling and a good achievement.”

The launch will also include a meet and greet with the 20 Years, 20 Portraits photographer, Régis Binard, and a circus performance by Dara, one of the circus students profiled in the book.

Romeet Gallery, 34E1 Street 178. 6:30pm.

MOST VIEWED

  • Reports: Rainsy barred from Jakarta flight

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy

  • Government studying EU’s preliminary report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday said the government was studying the EU Commission’s preliminary report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom that could lead to a suspension of access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement. The

  • Gov’t: Rainsy’s ‘coup plot’ a failure

    The government on Wednesday commended the Kingdom’s security forces for thwarting the attempted “coup plot” by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy through his announced return to Cambodia on November 9. The comments came as Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue

  • Rainsy blocked from boarding flight to Jakarta

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The "acting president" of the Cambodia National Rescue Party's announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy arrived in Kuala

  • Tour guides question animal release ban in Angkor moat

    The Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association (Katga) called on the Apsara National Authority to reconsider its decision banning all animals from being released into the moat surrounding the Angkor Wat temple after the authority prohibited the action for the sake of visitors’ safety. An Apsara

  • Kingdom to import 200MW from Lao hydropower plant

    Cambodia plans to import 200MW of electricity from Laos’ Don Sahong hydropower plant early next year to curb power shortages this coming dry season, with the transmission line network scheduled for completion later this year, Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Victor Jona said. Jona,