The story of Ramayana is an epic tale of Rama rescuing his love from the demon king with the help of an army led by Hanuman, his monkey general. Although the story originated from India, Cambodia has always revered a part of the story as their own, featuring the additional scene of Hanuman with a golden mermaid. The Reamker (រាមកេរ្តិ៍) is the dance of Hanuman and the golden mermaid named Sovannamacha. Etched in the temples and integrated with the royal dance theater, the Reamker is also a source of inspiration for many artists in Cambodia.
An art exhibition showcasing a reinterpretation of the forbidden love of Hanuman and Sovannamacha, will be held at the Art Bar on July 3 in Phnom Penh at 5 pm. Contemporary Cambodian artists, The Davido, Chaos, 12/12, Mariune, Penkuro, The Sokheng, Kakada Yi, and Apsvra, will presents artwork with contemporary styles fused with the traditional characters in the exhibit, “Forbidden Love”.
Chaos or his real name, Daniel Ou, is a 22 -year old Cambodian American artist and the curator for the show. “Forbidden love is the exhibit name because our show highlights different artists interpretation of the love relationship between Hanuman and Suvannamacha,” Ou explained. “Suvannamacha is a daughter of Ravana the demon king and Hanuman has been tasked by Rama to save Sita from the demon king’s grasp. We find it suiting that in a modern setting, their love is still somewhat forbidden or taboo. Thus, the name of the exhibit was decided.”
Although much of the artwork are from street artists, digital artists, and textile designers, some artists are specialized in street art aesthetic and storytelling, while other artists combine graphic art and textile designs into mixed media. The nine pieces of artwork are priced at a range of $150 to $500. The group aims to connect artists by sharing the process of art and challenging social norms by creating something new. The exhibit is an effort to bring together friends with people of common interest and introduce the artist to art lovers.
Ou has seen the art scene in Cambodia grown and expanded for young artists, crediting social media such as Instagram, as a reason for artists to connect with each other and work together. As an artist who has expanded abroad, Ou hopes to help more local artist expand as well. “To be sustainable and successful as an artist is to be consistent and conscious about the elements of their work,” Ou advised. “ Also it is very important to learn multiple disciplines and being able to adapt to different views of what art can be.”
The “Forbidden Love” exhibit will be held at the Art Bar on Street 45 on July 3, at 5pm.