Samnang Khvay (b. 1982) lives and works in Phnom Penh. His works have been exhibited in solo and group shows in Australia and the US, and extensively across Europe and Asia. He is a founding member of Stiev Selapak, an art collective dedicated to reappraising and remembering Cambodian history and exploring continuities in visual practices disrupted by civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime. His multidisciplinary art addresses not only the historical and traditional cultural rituals but also topical events, as well as humanitarian and ecological impacts of colonialism and globalization. Intrinsic to his work is his personal and direct engagement with local communities.
Samnang Khvay’s film Preah Kunlong (The Way of the Spirit) (2016–17) examines the relationship between humans and nature through the lens of Cambodia’s environmental crisis and the government’s land and natural resources policy, which threatens indigenous communities that traditionally live a life of deep connection with the earth and nature. The artist believes in the power of broaching difficult topics through dreams, premonitions and humour.
The film focuses on the indigenous Chong people, who live in the southwestern province of Koh Kong, primarily in the Areng Valley. Khvay embedded himself in the Chong community for a nonconsecutive period of one year, witnessing first-hand how they live in harmony with the land, water and wildlife.
Photo: Prum Bandiddh