Home / ArtEvocative Photos of Miniature Paper Cuttings Recall Cambodia’s Painful Past

Evocative Photos of Miniature Paper Cuttings Recall Cambodia’s Painful Past

When Cambodian artist Remissa Mak was only seven years old, he fled his home in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, after Khmer Rouge troops occupied the city on April 17, 1975. With the earsplitting sounds of gunshots still ringing in their ears, Mak and his family joined the crowds of people chased from the razed city by armed soldiers. Exhausted but forced to continue onward, innocent civilians faced extreme drought and sources of drinking water littered with corpses.

Now, 40 years later, Mak pays tribute to the shadows of the past with Left 3 Days, a powerful series that illustrates some of the horrors that many Cambodians experienced in the form of delicate, paper-cut figures silhouetted against wisps of smoke. The miniature scenes–depicting families huddled together on carts, individuals carrying their few belongings in bundles on their heads, and even sobering glimpses of still bodies collapsed on the ground–are an evocative visualization of the tumultuous period between 1975 and 1979.

“Like other Cambodians, some of my family members died from the killing, starvation, forced labor and torture under the Khmer Rouge regime,” Mak writes on Asia Motion. “Most of those who have survived the regime do not wish to recall such painful memories nor do they try to remember in order to avoid continues emotional suffering. Therefore, the story of the genocide that happened between 1975 and 1979 in Cambodia has faded gradually away from people’s mind, like smoke being blown away by the wind. Indeed, we, Cambodians, don’t want such a tragic and painful event to ever happen again in our motherland. That is why, right now, in order for the next generations to know our history so that it won’t disappear with the passage of time, it is important to reconcile the victims with the view of mending their fragile memories and emotional suffering.”

When asked how he hopes viewers react to his photos, Mak–whose father and other family members died during that painful time–told us, “I hope the viewers will remember the killing story in Cambodia and never forget the victims who died during the cruel rule of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979.”

Left 3 Days will be shown at the Angkor Photography Festival & Workshops from December 5 to December 12, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Above photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Photo: Remissa Mak / Asia Motion

Remissa Mak: Asia Motion

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Remissa Mak.

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