After performing Cambodian Classical Dance in support of Transgender Rights in our Human Rights in the USA Program last summer, Kanal Khiev gave a workshop on how to use the arts for social change for EarthRights in Thailand.

From the Global Youth Connect Human Rights Learning Program I attended in New York City in 2012, I learned that art in this present day is not only for entertaining, but it is also created to educate and to change hearts and minds, and also to be used as an important tool in social justice campaigns. The experience and knowledge I gained from New York lead me to design a one-day class on “Art and Campaigns” for EarthRights’ Mekong School in Chiang Mai.

The Mekong School provides a short course for 7 months to students from Mekong countries. Students are trained in human rights, and environmental issues, showing that environmental issues are human rights issues.

The one day class I taught was all about the practical experience of using Cambodian Classical Dance in a campaign during the GYC program in New York. The class covered a few main topics: the difference between classical dance and contemporary dance, the function of art in present day issues, conflict and resolution dance, and art as a tool of social justice campaigning.

The students were from Mekong countries such as China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The total 11 students enjoyed the class which was fun and acceptable as the tool of campaign. A student from Cambodia said “I’ve never thought that art can be used as campaign but now I feel art is a very powerful tool for campaign.” A student from Burma expressed his feeling that “I found very difficult to learn how to use art as mean of campaign within one day; however, I get the concept of art and campaign.”

Within one day, students came up with two performances. The first performance was about the daily life at the Mekong School that showed how students from different cultures can live together as a family. The second was about Kaeng Sue Ten, a proposed dam project at Phrae province, Thailand. The play can be a good tool for a campaign against this proposed dam which will negatively impact not only forests and rivers but also the livelihoods, culture and beliefs of local people. The second performance was documented and will be used as a campaign on behalf of local people.


Kanal (center), with Antoinette (NYC) and Sai (China) after a street theatre workshop in the GYC Human Rights in the USA Program


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