UNESCO Phnom Penh Office joined Art Spiration symposium organized by Cambodian Living Arts on 6 April 2021

On 6 April 2021, Cambodian Living Arts organized the Art Spiration symposium online in the framework of the Living Arts 2020 Scholarship. The symposium aimed to raise awareness of the value of the arts for community, economic, and social development. The event was live-streamed on Facebook and attended by 100 people across Cambodia. The symposium consisted of three activities: the presentation of the photo exhibition ‘Contemporary Breath’ by Mech Sereyrath and curated by Keo Pheak; and two panel discussions dedicated to the ‘Value in the Arts’ facilitated by Khut Sokhoeun, Keo Pheak, Mang Valy and Bonoem Milya; and ‘The Spirit of Dance’, moderated by Chumvan Sodhachivy and Po Sakun.

Mech Sereyrath (a fellow of the Living Arts 2020 scholarship) presented the Photo Exhibition entitled ‘Contemporary Breath’. She expressed her feeling through this photographic works to denounce the impacts of air pollution (toxic fumes from the factories, construction sites, traffic, etc.) on the daily lives of the inhabitants in Phnom Penh. She explained that “before making a video or taking a photograph we should consider five Ws and one H: What, when, where, why, with whom and how, considering as key elements allowing the audience to better understand our messages though the images…”. In the end of the session Mech Sereyrath invited participants to visit the online exhibition available on Cambodia Living Arts website.

Panel Discussions:

The panel discussion entitled ‘Value in the Arts’ gathered artists, art directors, book writers, cultural officials, and fellows of the Living Arts 2020 Scholarship who shared perspectives and knowledge on the value of arts in Cambodian society. Speakers debated on a variety of subjects including promotion of arts, creativity, freedom of expression in Cambodia. Keo Pheak, one of the speakers, stressed that: “art has a power to change people positively”. Mang Valy, Chief of the Heritage Division in Kompong Thom Provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, underlined that: “the value in art is dignity and knowledge sharing within societies, which require harmony among people”.

The second panel discussion focused on ‘The Spirit of Dance’, a contemporary dance jointly created by Chumvan Sodhachivy and Po Sakun, artists and fellows of the Living Arts 2020 Scholarship. Due to the spread of COVID-19 in Cambodia, the dance was never performed on stage. “To create a new artwork, three factors/elements are needed: artist, support (financial or facilities) and the audience: the latter is the most important – all art forms need their audience…” said Chumvan Sodhachivy.

The discussion ended with showing a video of ‘The Spirit of Dance’. Two artists expressed that it is important to continue relentless commitment and hard work to expressing ourselves in particular during the challenging time.


UNESCO was invited by CLA to take part in the symposium. Mr. Makara Hong, National Programme Officer of the UNESCO Phnom Penh office outlined that, when artists were deprived of a platform to perform, this initiative through digital device is very important to provide artists an opportunity to express themselves freely to a wider audience, while showcasing the power of culture.

The event explored emerging digital solutions to provide artists with a platform to exhibit their artworks, which spirit is in accordance with the UNESCO 2005 Convention for the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The Living Arts Scholarship:

The symposium significantly contributed to promote the ‘Living Arts 2020 Scholarship’ among young creators and fellows, while allowing them to meet virtually with their audience and artists. The Living Arts Scholarship aims to help talented students and youth (aged 20-35) to pursue careers in the arts (in the fields of photography, dance and music). The program helps students to develop skills in leadership, financial management, and career planning, and provides scholarship to help cover training fees and expenses. Scholarships are open to art students and Cambodian artists who show talent and motivation to improve their expertise – with priority given to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A new project by Cambodian Living Arts (CLAs):

CLAs was recently awarded the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2021. Being selected from 1,027 applications, the project entitled “Strengthening civil society engagement in policy advocacy and development in Cambodia” aims at strengthening the capacity of civil society in the cultural and creative industries, as well as supporting policymakers for advocacy of protection and promotion of rick cultural expressions in Cambodia.

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