The First Post-COVID Urban Art Festival Held in Battambang Attracts Nearly 8,000 People

: An evening event during the S’Art Urban Arts Festival in Battambang province. Photo: Phare Ponleu Selpak

PHNOM PENH — Around 7,700 people attended earlier this month the S’Art Urban Arts Festival in Battambang province during which artists from Southeast Asia as well as Canada and France performed artforms ranging from graffiti, street sculpture and mural painting to digital art, hip-hop music and breakdancing.

After being put on hold for four years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was at last held from June 12 to 17.

The event featured artists, panelists, and performers from countries ranging from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as well as Canada and France. Attendees and tourists came from across Cambodia, Southeast Asia, and some European countries.

“A key theme of the S’Art Urban Arts Festival was understanding the shared cultural heritage of the Mekong region beyond modern-day boundaries,” said Osman Khawaja, executive director of the arts NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak, which was the main organizer of the event. “Artists and experts from Cambodia, Thailand, and across Asia exchanged ideas on what it means to share and remix cultural traditions across national boundaries in ways that are both respectful and innovative.”

A street artist hard at work during the S'Art Urban Arts Festival in Battambang Province. Photo: Juliette Deloron.

And yet, Khawaja said in a Telegram interview on June 29, this was about Cambodia. “Along with our partners—UNESCO, Murals for Cambodia, and the Giant Puppet Project—we organized the S’Art Urban Arts Festival to showcase the rich fusion of both traditional and contemporary arts that is uniquely Cambodian.

“The urban arts illustrate this mix of old and new in how they thrive on diverse cultural exchange among artists and musicians,” he said. “The S’Art Festival was a perfect showcase of this dynamic in action.”

The festival, which was held with the support of the Battambang provincial authorities, ended with a parade throughout the old part of the city with giant puppets made by Phare students during the week and a concert featuring Cambodian singers and musicians such as Vanthan, Sang Sok Serey, Buubee, Nunkay and others.

“We created and organized this festival to show off the diversity and potential of the urban arts in Cambodia,” festival coordinator RY Monisovanya, known as “Fia,” was quoted as saying in the festival press release on June 28. “Thank you to everyone who performed, painted, presented, and participated…your energy made this festival come alive.”

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