Art Auction Benefits Burmese Cyclone Relief

The shock of the first days following Cyclone Nargis may have faded, and the media spotlight may now be lingering on another catastrophe, but the need for emergency assistance continues in Burma.

In support of the Burma relief efforts, Living Room cafe in Phnom Penh will hold an auction tonight, offering to the highest bidder drawings and photo­graphs donated by professionals and amateurs from Cambodia and abroad.

Proceeds will go to PACT, an NGO that has been involved in assistance efforts since Cyclone Nargis swept through Burma in early May, said Kurt MacLeod, PACT vice president for Asia and Eurasia, who will give a brief talk at the event.

About 200 of PACT’s 1,400 Burmese staff members were based in the most affected areas of the Irrawaddy delta when the cyclone struck, MacLeod said. Five PACT employees died and 15 others lost one or more family members, he said.

“This is one of the biggest national disasters in Southeast Asia over a long period of time,” he said. When tsunamis hit the shores of a dozen Asian countries in December 2004, around 225,000 people were de­clared missing or killed, but 11 countries shared the loss, he said.

In the case of Cyclone Nargis, he said, “more than 130,000 are either dead or missing, according to [Burma] government figures, in a very small geographic region.”

Lucas Torresi, an Argentine architect and country manager for the firm Real Architecture, is donating photos he took for the auction.

“Coverage on the situation [in Burma] is starting to disappear from the news: It’s when the publicity dies after a disaster that people need help the most,” he said.

Cambodian sculptor Pich Sop­heap selected his artwork for the auction with the recovery phase in mind, he said. He chose a paper drawing in oil, pastel and charcoal of his sculpture of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII.

“History says that the king built hospitals and roads. I figured that related somehow” to what must now take place in the areas devastated by the cyclone, he said.

Pich Sopheap said he has visited Burma twice and has artist friends in the country.

In addition to giving his photos, US photographer Jeff Kennel contacted a friend in Tokyo, where he is based, asking her for a donation to the auction.

Japanese freelance photographer Nanako Nishiyama agreed to contribute a photo she took in Burma in 2002, he said.

Local photographer Vandy Rat­tana said he was motivated to donate two of his works because the Burmese “really need help.”

“I give very, very small help by donating my artwork for the auction,” he added.

According to Living Room cafe owner Megumi Kitabatake, be­tween 15 and 20 artworks will be auctioned. The event starts at 7 pm at No 9, Street 306.

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