Moments come around. My meeting with the Reasmey Angkor Opera Company on the side of the road where they had set up their mobile theatre in central Cambodia ended in tears. The director, Khmer Rouge survivor Len Chouen, sank to his knees in front of me with tears streaming down his cheeks begging me to help them. “We are starving. Our art will die. We are the last to know this form of opera. We will not be able to go on. Please help us.” In ignorance, I didn’t know that they had been negotiating land mines, civil war, abandonment and the deaths of those around them to bring them to where they were that day near the temples of Angkor Wat. I didn’t know then that this form of opera goes back over 3,000 years with stories known to everyone in their culture. I could only relate immediately as another performer to those endeavoring to survive. This is how Save World Art began, responding to cries from indigenous art forms around the World that may disappear forever unless nurtured and supported. Tears [...]
Save World Art was recently profiled in Pacific University’s Khmer Student Coalition Conference, 2014, “Building Bridges.” Young people gathered in the hundreds who were either Cambodian born, born in the United States with minimal knowledge of their cultural heritage, or simply friends of Cambodia. The Cambodian Student Association’s organization was impeccable and Save World Art’s representatives were magnificently cared for. Several colleges in the area of Stockton, Northern California, where Pacific University is located convened, and listened with wide-eyed attention as they learned of Bassac Opera, Shadow Puppet Theatre and the legends and stories they tell. Pol Pot had all but eradicated any artistic endeavor during the horrific years of the Khmer Regime regime and the students heard about their existence for the first time. Cambodian Bassac Opera is an indigenous theatrical tradition going back well over 3,000 years. The conference participants were stunned to learn that they had a heritage of such wonder, predating the Greeks by many centuries.
Getting to know the world makes traveling a prime activity, and we love it. A month in Europe shuttling between Spain and Holland, attending conferences and meeting artists endeavoring to hang on to their cultures that have been handed down through generations; two weeks in the US fundraising and performing for fundraisers, and now on to California. Universities in Northern California are uniting to host a three-day conference on the art and society of Cambodia. And why? Because the Cambodians born in the US since the horrendous days of the Khmer Rouge do not know of their rich artistic heritage and have many questions. The universities are supporting their quest by convening experts to help them in reclaiming their past. Save World Art is invited to present two workshops telling them of the ancient art of Bassac Opera, a form of theatre unique to Cambodia going back over 3,000 years, and the ancient craft of shadow puppetry, originally created in Cambodia. We will have lots to tell following this event, I know. There is already great excitement and generous offers of [...]