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Ben E. King's Stand by Me inspired me to dig into my heritage

Do you ever look back on your life and wonder how did you end up where you are right now? How life could have been if some events didn’t happen? Did you ever wondered how your parents life has been before you were born? As I’m getting older I get more curious about their lives. How they have experienced it. During war time and decades after that.

They never really talk about it. Never have been since I was a kid. And to be honest I feel there is something holding me back from asking them. I don’t know if its fear or that I don’t want to open up old wounds, because there is a profound reason they don’t really open up on that periode in their lives.

My parents are Cambodian. They were about

16 or 17 years old when the cambodian communist party the Khmer Rouge took over their home country. Families were separated. Everyone with western influences were taken appart and were killed. From babies to grandparents. It didn’t matter to the Khmer Rouge. There was an atmosphere of mistrust over the country. You couldn’t trust your neighboors anymore out of fear being

betrayed or killed. In my nowaday safe life I cannot imagine how that must have. It sits so deep now I write about it. What would you do if you had the choice to stay in your home country with high risk of being killed or would you take the chance to leave to a totally unfamiliar new world that is perpendicular to your own culture? What would you do? It can make me very mad to those who are unwilling to try to understand where the other is coming from. I wanted to create a series of illustrations about my cambodian heritage.

Stand By Me from Ben E King became the inspiration for the illustration that you see above. The landscape one with the red sky. There is a sentence in the lyric that goes “If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall”. This line sounds very visual. There is a poetic feel to this line which makes it easy for me to literally translate it to an artwork.

“The Khmer Rouge said that the Communist revolution could be successful with only two people.”

“We not only lost our identities, but we lost our pride, our senses, our religion, our loved ones, our souls, ourselves.”

“They took young children from their homes to live in a commune so that they could indoctrinate them.”

“In the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century.”

“Many years after the Khmer Rouge atrocities, the trauma in the hearts of many Cambodians is still unresolved.”

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