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  • Chicago | Phnom Penh | Osaka

The Creation Myth Project

Work-in-progress / 2011 Fulbright Fellowship Research in Cambodia

Performing Contemporary Cambodia: Myths, Stories & Dreams Beyond Memorials and Ruins

One of the most common types of religious stories all around the world is called a “creation myth.” It is the story people tell of how the world, and all the people and animals and plants, supposedly came into being. Every human culture has tried to put together such an explanation, and in the absence of scientific methods and knowledge every human culture has invoked some supernatural forces to try to explain how we all got here and where we came from. These stories have been told and retold through many generations. My research is interested in how Cambodian people talk about these creation myths today.

I am currently conducting a series of interviews and conversations with a range of people in Cambodia. I am finding people based on some kind of connection to me or to the people around me. In these interviews, I will ask each person a series of questions based on the following ideas:

  1. Creation: what stories or myths were told to you about how the universe, our world and people came into existence?
  2. Birthing: what were you told about your birth, and if you gave birth what was your experience like?
  3. Dreams: what kind of dreams do you have for your future, your children’s future, and the future of Cambodia?

As an artist and a Cambodian Muslim transnational, I am professionally and personally drawn to Cambodia. Recalling that the oral tradition saved and preserved Cambodian art, I am inspired as an artist to seek those routes of memory. With my current Fulbright research project and the resulting creative work, I hope to shift the global public’s understanding of Cambodia beyond memorials and ruins; beyond what Cambodia is best known for: the Killing Fields and Angkor Wat. This research will inspire a new body of work. This new body of work will concentrate on Cambodian people, not destinations. As an artist, my work seeks to address these polarities and shift conversations towards humanizing people and experiences.