An new art exhibition in Phnom Penh featuring works by Cambodian and foreign artists will raise questions about plastic use and recycling, through woodcarvings, illustrations and even a motorbike.
On first arriving in Cambodia’s ever-expanding capital Phnom Penh, one is struck by the rubbish lying on the sides of the street; order noodle soup to go, and it comes in a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon – in a plastic bag. In a country seemingly in love with plastic, the only people recycling waste are the echchay – collectors that pass by rubbish heaps to pick up items for recycling, including plastic, glass, metals and anything else salvageable.
Miguel Jeronimo, a Portuguese photographer based in Phnom Penh, finds himself drawn to photographing these people, and this attraction is the inspiration behind the new exhibition he is curating, titled Plastic Kingdom – different views on waste and ecology in Cambodia.
“I was quite interested in the fact that [the echchay] are the only ones in a country like Cambodia that do something for the environment, even if they do it for livelihood, for survival. But then they are kind of discriminated [against] by society; it is a very low-income job,” Jeronimo told Southeast Asia Globe ahead of the exhibition opening.
He added, “I got inspired by that and wanted to do something at least to change the perception [of the echchay], so that people should look at them like ‘whoa, you are the ones cleaning our environment, and we don’t appreciate you enough.’”
Twenty artists, the majority of whom are Cambodian, will have their work featured at the exhibition, including the Battambang-based Bor Hak, who will create a sculpture from complementary soap that is given to guests at hotels. The soap for the sculpture was donated by an NGO called Eco-soap Bank, which collects the complementary soap bars from hotels, recycles them, and delivers them to rural schools.
Read the complete article on Southeast Asia Globe.
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