A whole generation of artists, intellectuals and teachers was lost to Cambodia at the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Many families in Cambodia still live in desperate poverty but the country is gradually taking charge of its future, one child at a time.
Auckland photographer Stacey Simpkin photographed some of these children during visits to Cambodia with the New Zealand-based Cambodia Charitable Trust. The Trust was established by Tauranga lawyer Denise Arnold to bring hope and opportunity to the rural poor of Cambodia, through education and community development.
It has grown to support 6000 children in 16 schools, as well as two teacher-training colleges, attracting support from some of New Zealand’s biggest names, with Theresa Gattung as its patron and Nadia Lim an ambassador.
Last year, one of the trust’s early schools, Aug Chhum Primary, was awarded the accolade of being one of the top 10 schools in the country, out of 11,200 schools.
All this has been achieved through the charity of New Zealanders who have donated time and money to the Trust.
This exhibition celebrates a rising generation of children, the transformative power of education and the gift of charity.
Rural, small town New Zealand provided Stacey’s first experiences of community but it was while studying Anthropology and Psychology at Otago University that her interest in people, cultures and communities piqued. Japan later became her home and while there photography became a vehicle to explore these things further. After formal photographic study at Unitec in Auckland, Stacey’s life experiences continue to feed her photographic practice, often resulting in long-term environmental portraiture series. In 2013 she won the AIPA Image Nation Award for her series ‘Garage’, photographed in Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.
Words: Stacey Simpkin
Children of Cambodia opens on September 15th and runs daily to October 1st from 10am to 4pm.
Venue: Studio 541, 541 Mount Eden Road.