from the Cambodia Daily, June 22, 2001
Depicted in Art Exhibit
by Jaime Jacques
and Ana Nov
"7painted pictures of everyday life, getting kids to school,
looking for work, these are things that make life
beautiful... I have passed many obstacles in my life and I
wanted to thank the people who have helped me."
paintings depict the plain and ordinary. But that, the
artist says, is what distinguishes his work.
pictures of everyday life, getting kids to school, looking
for work, these are things that make life beautiful," Ken
Svay Ken, 56,
began painting eight years ago, selling liis work to
tourists for $10 a painting. Now he has a collection of more
than 120 paintings chronicling the last 20 years of his
They will be
featured in an art exhibit, opening today, at Reyum Art
Gallery. 'The Story of My Family: 1941—2001" is a unique
biography that details Cambodia's history through the eyes
of an ordinary citizen, giving an insight that is hard to
find in any history text.
started off as a book titled 'The Story of Her Life,"
written by Svay Ken after his wife died in February of last
year. "I had never written anything like this before, but I
have passed many obstacles in my life and I wanted to thank
all those who have helped me," Svay Ken said.
Co-directors of Reyum, Ingrid Muan and Ly Daravuth,
encouraged him to paint pictures to accompany the text and
after just more than a year of work, the paintings are now
hanging on the gallery walls.
leaned steadily on his walking stick and his eyes scan the
paintings, stopping every once a while to elucidate. He
pointed to one of two men collecting what looks like soil
near a WC sign.
was considered the number one fertilizer during the Pol Pot
regime," he said. "It stunk, but I had to work to survive.
If I didn't work I would die."
painting shows his wife, who was a businesswoman, carrying
goods off of an airplane. "During the Lon Nol regime there
was no way to travel by land. Even if you wanted to travel
just 30 km outside of Phnom Penh you had to take an old
plane, packed with people, pigs, fish, everything," said
are for sale at $100 a piece. Muan said the paintings are
history in their own right and encourage people to talk
about episodes in Cambodian history often overlooked.
"It makes us sad to break up the show. If they could go to a
museum or a school or a library that would be great, but
nobody wanted them," Muan said.
Muan said she
hopes at least the paintings will help ordinary people see
that their lives are important "We hope that older people
will come to see them and maybe they will be encouraged to
start making accounts of their own lives," she said.