‘Pray for Prey’ promotes harmony with nature

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A mixed media work by Sao Sreymao, which uses digital illustrations over photographs to comment on the sustainable use of natural materials. PHOTO SUPPLIED

A tree with four trunks is wrapped in an axe, which each of its branches burning. Actually the tree is an animal, a deer, designed by an artist who wants to illustrate the danger that animal’s are facing thanks to environmental disasters.

In an upcoming exhibition, more than twenty local and international artists want to share the concept of people living in harmony with nature.

Pray For Prey will showcase artworks from photographers, NGO workers, students, indigenous communities representatives and journalists. It is part of the larger Show Me Your Tree exhibition by Pulitzer Center, which follows the Our Roots Our Forest exhibition which was displayed at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre in November 2021.

“This outreach program aims to engage a wider audience with environmental topics crucial to our time of global climate and biodiversity crisis, using art and information to bring people closer to nature while celebrating the work being done to protect it,” said the organiser, Miguel Jeronimo.

Pray For Prey consists of a journey that goes from images of a past of untouched nature, to the present clash and, finally, solutions for the future.

“The use of the word Prey, which symbolizes both forest in Khmer and victim in English, comes from the idea that the protection of nature is closely linked to spirituality and respecting our home on this earth,” Jeronimo explained.

Jeronimo added the art represents the people on the ground who are defending the trees against the issues they currently face towards restoring the harmony between humanity and nature they all need to survive as a species, and as a thriving planet.

Jeronimo, a Phnom Penh-based photographer and artist who has lived and worked in Cambodia for several years, said Southeast Asia suffers from one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.

“Each felled tree carries a story, a memory which is lost, as well as a lost source of shelter and sustenance for animals and people,” he added.

“This collection captures both the challenges of preserving our forests and the actions taken by empowered communities to retain them in the fight to secure our ecosystem and biodiversity,” Jeronimo told The Post.

From environmental journalists to conservationist photographers; accomplished artists to students, the artists hope these works express narratives rooted in the forests they need to survive.

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An illustration which shows the challenges wildlife face. DAHLIA PHIRUN

The organiser said that taken together, they represent small actions by forest communities, civil society organisations, artists and activists brave enough to stand by the planet they all share.

Jeronimo added that the purpose of the event is to raise awareness of the importance of forests to the fight against climate change and the need of biodiversity for people’s survival.

“The exhibition aims to bring Cambodian youth closer to nature and to help them appreciate the incredibly rich natural habitat and heritage of teh Kingdom,” he added.

“It is to honor the engandered species such as the giant ibis and the kouprey, to celebrate the people on the ground working to protect the forest – from rangers destroying snares and protecting the jungle from illegal poachers, to indigenous communities living and protecting their home for generations,” he continued.

“This exhibition features art that carries the beauty of Cambodian nature,” said Jeronimo, who has organised several exhibitions dedicated to environmental issues.

The exhibition includes photos, drawings, paintings, video, sculpture, AI-generated images, multimedia, illustrations and more, from many Cambodian and international artists who share a passion for the environment.

Photographs by Andy Ball, Jeronimo, Jeremy Holden, Roun Ry, Vincent Romera, Yann Bignat and Sar Senkethya will feature in the show, along with paintings by Chea Sereyroth – who paints on Khmer natural mats – Hour Seyha from the Romcheik5 art collective, Tamara Venn and Dahlia Phirun.

Phina So has written poems for the occasion, and mixed and multi-media will be on display from Emilie Languedoc, Repot Derm, Sean Gallagher and Roma Garzonio.

In addition, illustrations by Janice Seng, Sam Daro, Sao Sreymao, and an illustrated book and educational playing cards by Udam Pen/Penkuro, Samia Singh, Techit and Monorom will be on display, in cooperation with the design-residency program DoorToAsia and the Kuy community of Kompong Thom.

One featured artist is Lucky the elephant from Phnom Tamao rescue centre, who will display her photographs and paintings.

The exhibition will also be selling boxes of sesame mix. Sales of the boxes, available in three flavours, will go towards enabling 500 Kuy families to buy a half a hectare of land.

“They are struggling to find the money at the moment and their community centre and our financial stability are at risk,” said Jeronimo, citing the Kuy community.

“With your contribution, they will be able to keep their community centre for children’s education, cultural and traditional programmes, and tourism and economic development,” he added.

The exhibition, at F3 Friends Futures Factory on Phnom Penh’s street 13, opens on January 14 and runs until February 4.