Art has always been a powerful medium for expressing emotions and ideas that are sometimes difficult to put into words.
Artist Adana Mam-Legros, president and founder of social movement Generation C International, has used her art to explore the complexities of her identity and the trauma that her family and country have endured.
She describes her own life, from her lonely youth to becoming an activist rebelling against the system, through the mediums of dance and film.
“I’m telling my own story through a mix of dance performances, from traditional Khmer dance to contemporary styles and Bokator movements,” Adana told The Post.
Her latest work, Dead End?, is a short film that showcases her artistic talent and her passion for exploring important social issues.
Dead End?, which will be simultaneously shown on April 29 at The Parisien in Phnom Penh and at the Gazette Café, in Montpellier, France, is a highly anticipated work of art that features well-known dancers Silver Belle and Sok Vitou, as well as Kaliane Tea and Ning Mam.
The piece begins with Adana speaking over traditional Khmer dancers.
“I spent most of my life in Cambodia, a mysterious Kingdom with a long and complicated history. It was once the most flourishing and sacred nation in the world, with abundant resources and a rich culture, both symbolised by the remains of a grandiose civilization and its thousand temples,” she says.
The first of the four acts in the film describes her early life in Cambodia, a country with a rich history that was once flourishing but fell apart due to civil war and genocide.
Adana’s parents risked their family’s safety to fight against human trafficking in Southeast Asia, which she witnessed from a young age. This eventually shaped her, and gave her the courage to rage against the machine.
“It took me a long time to realise that all the sacrifices and pain were not abandonment or selfishness from parents who didn’t care, but rather that they had the courage to fight for an ideal society that went beyond their own personal lives,” she said in the film.
What makes Dead End? truly unique is the message behind it. Adana has used the film as an opportunity to unveil the reasons behind the creation of her movement, Generation C International.
“This is me, vulnerable as an artist should be, unveiling my psychological rumination, existential dissonance, and bewilderment from being multicultural. My bloodline is stained by the traumas of my mother and her parents,” she said.
“The aftermath of the genocide left our country drifting without a sense of direction in an endless river. I need to highlight the atrocity of wars and human deviance to reflect our inner chaos,” she explained.
Adana’s personal experiences and her family’s history have informed her art, and she has used her talent to shed light on important social issues.
She believes that the rise and fall of the Angkor Civilisation should serve as a reminder of its every system’s collapse, and should serve as a warning for people to wake up.
“Let us cultivate the art of living together in conviviality. Let us dream and build an ethical and responsible future,” she said.
Adana is a renowned artist, painter, and producer who has showcased her work in international exhibitions in New York, Sydney, Bangkok, Brussels, and Phnom Penh.
Her collaboration with Chea Serey, currently deputy-governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), transformed people’s perception of Khmer Art. They sold their art for $150,000, which was donated to three local NGOs.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Adana dedicated herself to humanitarian work in Cambodia and initiated multiple digital campaigns to promote International Women’s Day, which were funded by the EU and DanChurchAid.
Adana’s efforts were recognised when she was nominated for the Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia in the art and culture category.
Adana founded Generation C International, a movement led by young people who want to change people’s way of life, consumer habits, and social organisations for the better.
“We want to create a new generation of thinkers, citizens, and empathetic individuals who strive to bring meaning to their lives and society. The movement focuses on developing new ideas and concepts related to time, the world, love, death, and the role of the economy in society,” she explained.
Dead End? is the last film she directed in Cambodia before relocating to France in 2022.
“It is a testament to my love for Cambodia and my deep connection to its people and culture,” she said.
“I moved to France to be become a well-known Khmer artist. My hard work is paying off!,” she told The Post.
Dead End? will screen at The Parisien, located on Street 347 in Toul Kork, on April 29.