Reflections on Cultural Production and Prospects for Reconciliation in Cambodia


Where is Reconciliation? by Ly Daravuth (PDF)

In this portfolio, Ly Daravuth, co-founder of the Reyum Institute for Art and Culture and the Reyum Art School in Phnom Penh, inquires into the bleak truth behind "official" statements and acts of peace. Through a lyrical textual refrain and a collection of images from disparate violent events in recent Cambodian history, this portfolio highlights the irony and the danger of superficial acts of justice and reconciliation where what is needed is work that is deep and meaningful. Implicit in Daravuth's portfolio is a warning against superficial and false gestures of reconciliation. It asks: how can such gestures be avoided, resisted, and replaced with more meaningful efforts toward reconciliation and justice? What distinguishes constructive, high-level gestures of peace from hollow, hypocritical gestures that only embody and reinforce harsh realities?

Notes on Pchum Ben by Ly Daravuth (PDF)

Rather than exploring an intervention purposefully designed to help a troubled community, this photo essay explores an existing cultural-religious ritual and finds within it potential resources for reconciliation. In this piece, Ly Daravuth describes a traditional Khmer Buddhist ritual in which offerings are made to the dead. His striking photographs capture some of the expressive and aesthetic qualities of this ritual-in particular, the in-gathering of distinct elements (rice grains, sand grains, candles, persons) into beautiful and meaningful forms-that are relevant to reconciliation. The interdependent, egalitarian aesthetic of the ritual constructs the possibility of an inclusive experience of mourning. Daravuth suggests that the Pchum Ben ritual can be a symbol of and a step toward healing, mourning, and reconciliation in Cambodia, a country grappling with a long legacy of domination, violence, and genocide.

The Goodness of Lives by Ingrid Muan (PDF)