Cambodia’s Strength

by bria4123 on November 20, 2012


Is Cambodia cursed, as the title of Joel Brinkley’s recent book suggests?

He paints a grim portrait of politicians keeping most Cambodians in grinding poverty while they build mansions and up-scale malls in Phnom Penh. No argument from me about the corruption. But Brinkley said that Cambodians are dour people.  That’s crap. His book is very important–it shows that many people aren’t much better off than they were under the Khmer Rouge. But he only shows you half of Cambodia’s landscape. I saw as much of the good as the ghastly, and the former will help heal the country’s wounds if it’s encouraged to grow.

While exploring Battambang, I found a studio for local artists called Sammaki ( The girls in the above photo are part of a group called Our Strength, which promotes women’s health in Cambodia. Some of its members use one of Samaki’s rooms to express their views of the world as they transition from girlhood to adulthood.


And their views look pretty good to me.


These paintings portray love with an exuberance that reminds me of ancient Khmer art, including Angkor Wat. Rather than beating around the bush, many ancient Khmer and modern Cambodian artists put full, unadulterated feelings in their work.

I was just in Cambodia during the rainy season, and I was surrounded by more shades of green than any language can name. Nature is exuberant and joyful. The ancient Khmers developed art forms that express this. Now some youths are beginning to find their identities in it.


Managers in  Our Strength grace the above shot. I thank them and the artists for the warm welcome they gave me.

Cambodia is not cursed if enough people learn about its rich heritage and share it. Help it become blessed again.


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{ 1 comment }

Meg November 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Thanks so much for stopping by Brian! We’re so glad to know that you were impressed with our work. Please come and see us again if you are back in Battambang.

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