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- May 16, 2019 5:40 AM
Attempting to capture the struggle of Cambodian migrants in New Zealand, Meng Sochetha—whose family left Cambodia in 1998—has put together a literary collection exploring her cultural identity
PHNOM PENH--As a New Zealander born to Cambodian migrants, Meng Sochetha’s experiences differ greatly from those of her parents, who left Cambodia more than 20 years ago. To represent her family’s varied experiences as Cambodians living in New Zealand, Sochetha has put together a project entitled From Me to You which is comprised of three zines: Short magazines, each under 10 pages long.
The Past, The Present and The Future are the titles of the three zines and each aims to capture a different element of refugee life in New Zealand.
“I, as part of the younger Khmer generation will never fully understand the amount of pain my grandparents and parents went through,” Sochetha wrote in The Past zine, which touches on the idea of Khmer identity and the survival of Khmer culture.
Aged 21, Sochetha was born and raised in New Zealand where her family have lived since 1998. The project was her way of sharing the different experiences of Cambodians who have fled their homeland and are separated from their family and culture.
“In the zine The Past, I describe the darkest times in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge era and my family's migration from Cambodia to New Zealand,” she said. “Moreover, The Present describes my experience as a second-generation immigrant in a family that migrated and explored my own cultural identity, while The Future is about my imagination for Asians living in New Zealand.”
“The feeling when you feel you don’t really belong anywhere,” she wrote in The Present. “Endlessly trying to find the balance between two opposing cultures and trying to form an attachment to countries.”
“I imagine a future where there is no ethnicity, race or culture being treated as the ‘other’,” she wrote in The Future.
Sochetha spent more than four months creating this project by herself, uncovering new elements of her own personal experiences and struggling to find the words to describe her transplanted life in New Zealand.
“I have to decide if the story I want to share will be understood by everyone,” she said. “As some stories are difficult to narrate, I have to make sure that the stories are not too difficult to understand. I wrote the stories when I felt that it was okay.”
According to Sochetha, the three zines have been published online and will be available for sale in New Zealand and Cambodia, with all proceeds going to the Raksa Koma Foundation.