Artwork: "The Grief in my Life"Cambodia

Hopes and Dreams 2005

In November 2005, an art exhibition was organized for the general public at Del Gusto Café, Phnom Penh, to share the stories and journeys of a group of trafficked women who participated in the Art2Healing Project - creative art therapy rehabilitation program.


Through the exhibition, the public was able to connect with and understand their lives, the issues that the trafficked survivors are faced with, their stories, their strengths and their hopes for the future through art. The exhibition provided the viewer an opportunity to hear the personal stories of some survivors of trafficking.


In this way, a deeper understanding of the issues that the survivors face is fostered, and this understanding promotes awareness, empathy and compassion for a group of individuals which are so often misunderstood and judged unfairly. The 2005 exhibition - Hopes and Dreams, proved to be a very powerful experience for all, and another exhibition, Turning the Tides, was launched with the generous support of The Kitakyushu Forum of Asian Women (KFAW), The Phoenix Institute of Victoria and The Boddhi Tree.


The following pictures were part of the exhibition, and they consist of a series of images narrating the story of a participant's life.


Figure 1: Artwork


Image 1 - This image represents her childhood. Her house is black, and the color represents the sadness in this part of her life. Her family is very poor and she experienced a lot of fights and arguments within her family. The grey sky symbolizes the bad conditions during her childhood. It was very hard for her when she was growing up. She could not speak about her sadness and distress. Up above are black birds flying in the sky. These birds represent freedom, and they stand for a symbol of hope. They are able to fly anywhere and this is what she wishes for herself. She is able to draw strength and hope from what the birds embody. The birds in the picture also represent her, and even though she had many difficulties such as having no education, living in poverty and domestic violence, she has still managed to fly and overcome her obstacles.


Figure 2: Artwork


Image 2 - This is an image of the participant when she was sold. She was 13 years old when she left home. She was sold to a man as a slave. The man's red car is on the right. The participant is in the middle, and she is crying because she does not want to leave her family. She is feeling confused and frightened. On the left side of the painting, her family members look on as she leaves. The black clouds and rain symbolize that it was a very dark time for her.


Figure 3: Artwork


Image 3 - This picture is of a man beating her and striking her face. When she was working, she was horribly battered physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually. This man raped and abused her repeatedly. (Some of the images were edited due to their intense nature).On the right is an image of other people eating, and she is on the floor, like an animal, not allowed to eat with them. She has painted this whole picture black. There are no faces in these pictures except her own.


Figure 4: Artwork


Image 4 - This is a picture of her at the center in AFESIP. The colours are brighter, even though there is still a bit of black in the sky. Her symbols of power; her personal medicine (The Birds) are in this picture again. The figures on the right are her with her friends that she has made in the center. They support and help each other through their struggles. They are holding hands and smiling.


Figure 5: Artwork


Image 5 - This is an image that gives her hope and strength for her future. She believes that like the birds, she is able to fly higher than her obstacles in life. Even though the mountains are high, the birds fly even higher. The mountains and the obstacles in her life have taught her how to fly even higher.