An exhibition on the effects of land mines and unexploded munitions in Cambodia wrapped up at the UN in New York Monday, having displayed some of the country’s achievements in both demining and art.
The exhibit, “Impact,” was meant to raise mine awareness as well as highlight Cambodia’s achievements in dealing with the remnants of conflict.
“Ten years ago, Cambodia was known as one of the most affected countries in the world, and now people look to Cambodia as one of the global leaders in mine action,” Alex Hiniker, the main organizer of the exhibit, told VOA Khmer.
Cambodia was once littered with mines and ordnance from decades of war, where peace came only as recently as 1998. Clearance efforts have reduced the number of deaths dramatically, down for example from 450 in 2006 to 243 in 2009.
The country’s deminers now contribute to UN peacekeeping operations in places like Sudan.
“Impact” showcased the work of 10 Cambodian artists, including one woman, who met with villagers in mine-affected areas and places that had been cleared of mines and ordnance. They spoke to survivors of explosions, deminers and others, before creating paintings and sculptures for the exhibit.
One painting, “Aphorp,” depicts a wild cow with a broken leg standing amid barbed wire and mines.
“This painting is about the disaster caused by land mines, or the impact they have,” the creator, Srey Bandol, told VOA Khmer by phone from Phnom Penh. “The script on the mines, which says, ‘China,’ ‘US,’ and ‘USSR,’ represents countries from where [the mines] are imported.”
Srey Bandol also painted “Chhai You,” or “Success,” which depicts the work of demining agencies like the Cambodian Mine Action Center, the Mine Advisory Group and the government’s Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.
Artist Chhon Dina contributed a sculpture called “This Shattered Life is Also Your Problem.”
“I made this sculpture from ceramics and iron,” he told VOA Khmer. “The bottom part is a defused mine. I made this sculpture to represent how it affects the mind of mankind—so landmine producers should stop producing them and peace should prevail.”
Suos Sodavy created a work featuring businesses that have arisen on land cleared of mines: a motorcycle repair shop, hair dresser, bakery furniture store and restaurant.
Hiniker said the exhibit was a chance for artists to share their work, “so that people know that Cambodia is not just a country affected by landmines, it’s a country with a thriving arts scene.”