200 International Artists To Be Featured in Siem Reap Festival

More than 200 artists from seven Asian countries will take part in an eight-day arts festival in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap town this month.

“Spotlight: An Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts” will consist of stage and visual arts events presented by artists with and without physical disabilities, starting with a parade in Siem Reap town Saturday, where 300 participants will join the artists.

International performers will include the Hitomi Deaf Puppet Theater from Japan, which uses mus­ic and gestures to talk of a changing world; the Koshu Roa Taiko group, which plays Japanese traditio­n­al drums; deaf percussionist Lily Go­hof, of Singapore, and partially disabled dancer Laxmi Kharel Bas­net of Nepal.

At the opening night party Sat­ur­day, Feb 23, Thai jazz pianist Yuttana Srimulchai, who is blind, will join Cambodian chapei master Suon Peng, himself physically im­paired, in a performance at Gas­o­l­i­na in Phnom Penh.

Sunday, at the Chen­la Theatre in Phnom Penh, the Viet­namese Together Higher Dance Troupe will combine songs and dance in “Stories of Us” about the seg­regation and isolation physically disabled people often experience.

Also dancers—with and without disabilities—of the Laotian Lao Bang Fai & HIB Laos hip-hop crew will share the stage with circus/theater artists from Cambodia’s Phare Ponleu Selpak in Siem Reap town Sunday and with the Cambodian Epic Arts Youth group in Phnom Penh on Feb 29.

Events will include workshops, films and art exhibitions at the So­vanna Phum theater, the French Cul­tural Center, Bophana Audio Vi­sual Resource Center and Meta House in Phnom Penh and The Art House in Siem Reap town.

The festival took a year to set up, said festival producer Hannah Stevens of Epic Arts, an NGO us­ing arts to bring people together in Cambodia.

The idea for the festival—which is sponsored by the Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation and supported by various organizations including Handicap International Bel­gium—came out of the Epic Arts troupe performing in a two-show event featuring disabled artists in Ho Chi Minh City and Vien­tiane in 2006, she said. The NGO then star­ted dis­cus­sing the pos­­sibility of a similar event in Cam­­bodia, Ste­vens said.

“It had so much potential: It seemed a shame to just have one night in a theater. Why not have three days, a weekend? Then it be­came five days, and finally we’ve got eight days,” she said.

The theme of the festival is “See Ability Not Disability,” Stevens said. “I really, really believe that what we are doing…can change people’s perception of people with disabilities.”

The artists at the festival are of in­ter­national caliber, which will provide disabled Cam­bodians with role models, Ste­v­ens added.

All events during the festival are free. But people wishing to make sure they have seats for performances—such as such as the comedy “Let’s Talk About Love” produced by Cambodia’s Amrita Performing Arts and staged at the Chenla Theater on Feb 27—may get free tickets at Amrita’s office and, after Friday, at Gas­olina, the festival headquarters, Stevens said.

Information is available at www.spotlight-inclusiveartsasia.org.

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