Cultures of Independence

Opening reception, January 10, 2002



This exhibition, and its accompanying publication, considered various forms of culture during Cambodia's transition from a colonial regime to independence. The necessity of building a cultural identity for the new nation was paralleled by a desire to make that new identity “modern”. This double impulse led to the creation of several new forms of art: lakhaoun niyeay (or speaking theater), film, modern painting, modern architecture, modern music and the novel. Our exhibition and publication surveyed each of these areas, providing information on their background and their development. While the exhibition presented primarily visual examples of each new form, the accompanying publication offers more in depth information on each form as well as interviews with some of the surviving particpants of these movements.

We do not raise the subject of culture after independence out of nostalgia. Rather we feel that the problematic of creating a contemporary Khmer culture continues to be a significant issue today. The ways of thinking through this problem offered by the preceding generation seems to us to be an important resource for rethinking the problem today. We hope that through this exhibition, others will become interested in this topic and will pursue the areas sketched here in much greater detail and with much more individual expertise than we can bring to our brief overview.