Today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launches an art campaign in Cambodia to promote intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and tolerance, counter xenophobia and stigmatization and disinformation, and strengthen social cohesion and community resilience to overcome the difficult times that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered across the globe.
Entitled “Open Your Heart”, the campaign features a chalk mural that aims to start a dialogue within the Cambodian society. According to UNESCO representative to Cambodia, Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, “The COVID-19 virus is affecting the humanity as a whole, and further exacerbates the existing frailties and inequalities of our community. The disease doesn’t discriminate, but its impacts do. We see the rise of hate speech and the disproportionate targeting of certain communities and vulnerable groups. At this moment in time, it is important that we act in solidarity and with shared responsibility to strengthen social cohesion and come together in the fight against this common enemy through common understanding, collaboration and trust-building by placing human rights on high-priority”.
UNESCO, in collaboration with the Social Business Unit of Havas Champagne, have tapped Bassac Studio Khmer French artists Annie and Thommy to create a chalk art mural in front of UNESCO Phnom Penh Office, next to the Royal Palace. “We’re very honored to have been invited to participate in this campaign. We believe that art can connect people from different ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs – we hope that our creation will help people connect to each other and talk to one another, so we can realize that we’re all the same at heart,” said Thommy. Echoed by Dannith Oung, Managing Director of Havas Champagne “We all want to stay safe and healthy – and we all want to beat this virus. Not just the coronavirus but the virus of hate and discrimination, which has no place in Cambodia or anywhere in the world.”
The chalk art mural features a graffiti style interpretation of a dandelion and a combination of words (in both Khmer and English) and symbols. Words have been selected to represent both the challenge, and a positive action or behavior. The underlying idea behind the Dandelion is the fragility of life and the spread of the virus through the air. The round shape and the seeds of the flower are also expressed as two parts of the campaign acronym symbol, which combined with the heart shape icon to create the ‘Open Your Heart’ campaign theme. It is hoped that the simple and easily copied letters and icons of the logo will allow for easy interactive community engagement. With the impermanence of the chalk, we also hope that the unfortunate negative social effects of COVID-19 will be washed away and be gone with the conclusion of the monsoon rains.
Alongside this art campaign to strengthen social cohesion and community resilience, UNESCO, in partnership with Havas Champagne, has launched the #DontGoViral social media campaign by inviting five Cambodian artists and celebrities to jointly guide the public in navigating the information overload on the internet. Through UNESCO’s campaign, over 300,000 Cambodian social media users have been engaged to learn how to access truthful and timely information online and consume and share media content critically. These initiatives are part of UNESCO’s on-going work to strengthen the freedom of expression and media development ecosystem in Cambodia.