Khvay Samnang: Calling for Rain

Following COP 2021 Tramway's main gallery will present a new work for children and young people by Phnom Penh, Cambodia-based artist Khvay Samnang.

Khvay Samnang: Calling for Rain

About Khvay Samnang: Calling for Rain

Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang (b. 1982) is a multimedia storyteller whose work is located at the nexus of creativity and social justice. Combining poetry, ritual and spiritual beliefs Samnang creates narratives of resistance in order to address urgent environmental issues in his home country Cambodia and globally, such as deforestation, land grabbing, the vanishing of traditions and forced population displacement. His works are often informed by the ancestral mythologies and environmental practices of the indigenous Chong people of Cambodia with whom he collaborates. The Chong people worship the spirits of animals living in the forest and their culture celebrates the cooperative and spiritual relationships between species and the rain forest. Their belief system is founded on animism – the attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. Samnang explores these spiritual ecologies in order to address the challenges faced by indigenous communities in contemporary times who are losing their lands and traditions due to deforestation and unchecked development.

In this new film work to be exhibited at Tramway, Khvay takes inspiration from Reamker, the Cambodian version of Ramayana, an epic poem and philosophical allegory dating back to the 7th century. Created especially for younger audiences to learn about the challenges of climate change, the film takes us on a journey through the landscapes of Cambodia as it follows The Monkey on his quest to save the dying forest and its surrounding environment. The story starts after he meets and falls in love with The Fish, and depicts the struggles he must overcome after the loss of his home in the forest. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the problems of the forest and its surrounding fields and rivers are linked to the irresponsible behaviours of the Fire Dragon.

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