Cambodia may have embraced the 21st century, with its city students endlessly text messaging each other on their mobile telephones or visiting chat rooms on the Internet. But some parents still expect their girls to aim for a more traditional goal in life.
“My family wants me to get married and have children,” said 27-year-old artist Tes Vanna. “It’s difficult for women to be artists.”
Ms Vanna is one of eight Cambodian female artists exhibiting this month at the French Cultural Center. Opening tonight, the event is marking International Women’s Day held Tuesday, said Kor Borin, the center’s head of cultural activity and communication.
One of Ms Vanna’s works in acrylic and gold leaf is meant to express people’s right to choose their own destinies: interlaced hands, one dark gray and the other golden, set against a deep red and yellow background. “This is my hands, this is my life, this is my future,” the artist said to explain the piece.
Yim Maline, who painted dramatic faces emerging from wind, earth or water for the exhibition, said she knew all about the difficulties of being a female artist in Cambodia. Society will understand a woman whose small business or job brings her family money, but not a woman whose art may or may not generate an income, the 28-year-old artist said.
The center gave the artists “women celebrating” as a theme and this led to quite diverse techniques and interpretations, Mr Borin said. For example, rather than expressing women’s inner feelings, Nguon Sakal drew in traditional story-book style to portray a woman’s tribulations to take her family to a celebration, he said.
Works on exhibit range from Buth Chan Anochea’s serene couples emerging from a pointillist mist and Noun Borina’s pensive woman standing apart from the swirl of city lights, to Chan Pisey’s black-and-gold cutout silhouettes on sheer fabric, Khchao Touch’s dream-world images reflecting one’s inner refuge, and Phin Sophorn’s cheerful women in pastel and gold beads.
The exhibition opens tonight at 7 pm.