Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Young artists explore lasting suffering of forced marriages

Young artists explore lasting suffering of forced marriages

Woman and Memories by painter Saing Nan.
Woman and Memories by painter Saing Nan. Pha Lina

Young artists explore lasting suffering of forced marriages

Over the past three weeks after long days in the studio, Saing Nan, a painter and alumnus of the Royal University of Fine Arts, has spent most of his evenings on his new work Woman and Memories, a striking portrait of a woman with her eyes closed.

The black cloth and krama around her neck signify that she is living under the Khmer Rouge, and etched into her face are images illustrating the story of her life after Year Zero, in which she is victimised, especially by forced marriage and rape.

The painting, which the 31-year-old artist described as “filled with endless pain and misery”, will be displayed along with the artwork of four other young Cambodian artists in a 20-day exhibition at Bophana Centre, which focuses on the harm suffered by men and women from the Khmer Rouge’s policy of forced marriage. It is part of Phka Sla Krom Angkar, a judicial reparations project focusing on forced marriages and sexual violence in Democratic Kampuchea.

Though none of them lived under the Khmer Rouge, Nan and the other artists were attracted to the subject because of an artist talk hosted last year by Sophiline Arts Ensemble about forced marriages. They watched classical dance and documentaries about the pain and trauma suffered by those who were forced to marry, and the consequences for those who refused.

According to Nan, the story depicted in a documentary about a married woman who was forced to marry a Khmer Rouge cadre while her husband was sent to an unknown place to work, influenced his work.
“After watching those, I felt the anguish of the victims who had to force themselves to wed those who they had no love for at all,” said Nan. “I feel we need something to tell that to today’s generation so that it will never happen again.”

Another artist, Chum Mab, 25, will exhibit his sculpture Red Recall, which is made of wire and shows a couple raising their arms to show “commitment to live together and reproduce” during a wedding ceremony organised by Khmer Rouge. He said he wanted to contribute something to immortalise the victims’ stories.

“I had not been through it, but I really feel the pain,” he said. “All of this was caused by the Khmer Rouge’s ridiculous, impractical plan, which did away with love and came up with marriage as a tool to produce babies and a labour force.”

Tieng Piseth, the project coordinator at Bophana Center, said the exhibition is not only to spread the message and stories of forced marriage and abuse, but also to motivate young artists to pursue the topic.

“All the five artists were born after 1979, and they have not been through it personally, but they have potential in arts,” he said. “We believe that after listening to the victims’ stories, they will . . . keep on spreading those stories to other Cambodian people in their generation.”

Cambodian Artists’ work on Forced Marriage under Khmer Rouge will be officially launched at Bophana Center on Friday at 6:30pm. It will be open to the public with free admission until January 31.

MOST VIEWED

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,