From the South
China Morning Post, Tuesday, January 18, 2000
inspire healing process
- When Cambodian artist Phy Chan Than was asked to paint horrors of
the Khmer Rouge, he chose an abstract depiction of a kapok tree with
a blood-red gash through the trunk. For Phy, the scene has special significance.
In Khmer, the word for the kapok also means "mute". During
the Khmer Rouge's brutal regime there was a saying: "If you want
to live, plant a kapok tree." In other words, keep silent or die.
Twenty years later, Cambodian artists are breaking the silence. With
its stark images of skulls and barbed wire, the "Legacy of Absence"
exhibition comes as Cambodia moves to finally bring Khmer Rouge leaden
before a court. The show's co-director, Ly Daravuth, said that just
as Cambodia had never brought the Khmer Rouge to justice, neither had
its people fully faced what happened. Almost everyone in the country
lost at least one loved one under the Khmer Rouge, the ultra-Maoists
who enslaved most of the population in vast farming collectives and
executed dissenters. But
despite their shared suffering, Mr Ly said most of the artwork had to
be commissioned because few artists in Cambodia choose to depict the
Khmer Rouge years.
"It's too painful for many people. It's too close," he said.
very silence that protected now threatens to do harm as Cambodia's younger
generation grows up knowing little about the regime.
this dilemma. It's too close still for many to talk about, but far enough
away to allow us to forget too quickly," Mr Ly said. "We really
think there should be a long process of mourning."
is part of an international Legacy project that encourages catharsis
and healing through art, which then serves as a reminder of past mistakes.
Similar shows are being held in such countries as Kosovo and Germany.