Taking place at a cultural, historical, and heritage site filled with jungle-shrouded temples built during the reign of King Isanavarman I the 7th century, an arts and environmental festival was celebrated successfully on February 25 thanks to a fruitful collaboration between Cambodian Living Arts and five of the organisation’s 2017 fellows.
Two morning workshops at Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site were witnessed and joined by local authorities, residents and students from various schools and guests from Taipei, US, Holand, and Lao.
Organised by CLA fellows An Reaksmey and Ou Buntheng, the workshop began with some activities designed to encourage participants to get to know each other a little. They then watched a video produced by Phare Ponleu Selpak, shared experiences and ideas regarding keeping the environment clean — especially how to minimise plastic consumption. All participants were given different kinds of trees for planting.
After watching a video on the consequences of environmental pollution, the students formed groups and made clothes out of plastic in an exercise designed to send a message to people not to litter or waste, especially at heritage sites. The students seemed happy and showed a lot of teamwork on their designs after being inspired by fellows Romdoul Lich Tek and Heak Pheary. They then went to a solidarity lunch at Sambor pagoda.
“This is the most fruitful workshop we’ve ever had. It engaged residents and authorities from local communities and helped them to understand plastic management and the importance of planting trees,” said Seng Chantha, deputy director of the archaeology and conservation department at Sambor Prei Kuk.
On behalf of the attendees, Mr Chantha said he would share what he had learned about maintaining a healthy environment at the workshop with other officials and villagers. He said he had personally observed people dropping trash where they stand, even at temples, and in places where there are lots of trash bins.
“Garbage can be reused or recycled if people have an idea about what to do with it. I attended the workshop, and we designed things out of plastic. But it doesn’t end with design; I think it can be even more beneficial if people are aware or curious about making other fascinating things,” said Aou Chansereyrath, a student from Kampong Chher Teal High School.
She added that people can use other things besides plastic bags. She realised that plastic bags are really convenient, yet the next generation will suffer the consequences of their use. Or they themselves will, when people burn plastic, as the smoke can cause some cancers.
“I would advise people that it is really harmful to throw trash into rivers or burn it because there is a cycle of consumption. I hope to see a beautiful environment in my country as well as my local area. I hope more people will engage in such workshops. Then they will be aware and join hands to make positive change together. And I desire to join more workshops, which I’ve never done before,” Ms Sereyrath said after watching the video animation.
One of the five 2017 CLA fellows, Sous Sinath, emphasised that the major objective of the festival was to highlight the role of the arts in environmental protection and to raise awareness among communities about the environment, especially plastic management and planting trees.
“Neglect of the environment is harmful to Cambodia. At tourism sites, markets and along the roads, there are piles of untidy garbage. Therefore, we [fellows] thought we should do something to protect the environment and minimise this problem as much as we possibly can,” said Ms Sinath.
“The temple zone in Sambor Prei Kuk, an archaeological site of ancient Ishanapura, was recorded on the World Heritage List in 2017. We’ve selected this place because we believe there will be interest in it locally and internationally. So we want communities and authorities to be aware about environmental issues. Then they will know how to manage or clean these places,” she said.
Art and photo installations were mounted in the trees near the temple during the evening, drawing many curious onlookers. Performances of Chapei, Yike, Ayai were put on, along with short stories about the environment, a fashion show, and a flower-selling dance by local artists. All were performed on beautifully decorated stages, drawing more than 1,000 people to the Sambor pagoda in the evening.
Ms Sinath said she wants to promote local artists, as she has heard that many had never been on stage despite almost 20 years of experience as artists.
“All the local artists have tremendous potential. Therefore, we want all people to have their talents heard, so they can earn an income from it. Some art forms have almost disappeared, so we all have to revive them. Local communities are only about temples; there are also many talented artists whose talents should be shown and appreciated.”
Ms Sinath urged people to participate more in such events, especially at the local level, as environmental issues concern everyone.