Mr Seng Song
Mr Song Seng
Senior Program Coordinator, Culture and Arts Education
Cambodian Living Arts, Cambodia
Mr. Song Seng is currently a senior program coordinator for Culture and Arts Education at Cambodian Living Arts (CLA). Previously, Seng has served as a producer, manager, facilitator and arts administrator at CLA, and was extensively involved in the first 10 years of the organization’s early work in reviving traditional Cambodian art forms and intangible cultural heritage that was in urgent need of safeguarding.

Seng’s current role centers on building culture and arts education into Cambodia’s education system, working in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and UNESCO. This project is funded by UNESCO and involves the integration of intangible cultural heritage into arts and culture curriculums in Cambodia’s public schools.

Seng’s dream is to see every Cambodian to learn the arts, and to see Cambodia contribute traditional and contemporary artistic expression and best practices to the global arts community. 

Track 1 Discussion: 
Harnessing Youth Potential in Crafts and Performing Arts

Harnessing Youth Participation in Reflecting a Modern Cambodia and Relevant Social Issues Through Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) was founded in 1998 with an original mission to revive Cambodian traditional performing arts in need of urgent safeguarding. By 2012, CLA had established 27 art classes across 9 provinces, reaching 1,000 students and covering 12 art forms. As Cambodia and the arts sector continued to develop and a new generation of artists began to emerge, we have evolved our work to match. Today, we offer scholarships, fellowships and training for young artists and cultural practitioners, while also advocating for cultural policy and the integration of culture and arts education into Cambodia’s public schools. We also prioritize youth participation by providing support and opportunities for young artists and audiences to immerse in, create and experience art forms that tell stories of contemporary Cambodia.
Culture and Arts Education: CLA has developed this five-year pilot program to integrate culture and arts education into Cambodia’s public education system, working in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS), the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and UNESCO. The program has two focus areas:
  • Culture and Arts Education Policy and Advocacy: CLA partners with high schools to pilot arts education classes in grades 7-9 by developing syllabi, creative content, and teaching materials such as lesson plans, research documents, slides and videos. Bringing culture and arts education into these classes enables students to not only learn about traditional arts and culture, but also build connections within their families and communities through research assignments. 
CLA is also supporting Teachers Educational Colleges—Cambodia’s national institutes that provide pedagogical training to train teachers across Cambodia—to develop their teacher-training curriculum and build capacity for training more arts teachers.
  • Extra-curricular Culture and Arts Education Practice: CLA created art clubs as extra after-school arts class for students who are more interested in practical lessons after class, as well as for the students from nearby communities who are not part of the school to come and join. The club serves as a platform to provide training for arts instructors, as well as special arts programming and training for evaluators. 
At the end of this five-year program, CLA will hand the program over to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to implement Cultural and Arts Education, with CLA serving in an advisory capacity.
From 2014-present, we have worked extensively to integrate arts and cultural experiences into the lives of young Cambodians. According to UNDP, people under the age of 30 account for two thirds of Cambodia’s population and, as Cambodia’s post-conflict population, make up the driving force for the development of Cambodia going forward. In response to this dynamic, we created a youth engagement fund for youth-led initiatives related to ICH projects. We also involve young Cambodians in CLA programs by providing volunteer opportunities for CLA-led festivals and community arts demonstrations, as well as engaging young audiences. For example, in 2017 and 2018, CLA partnered with youth groups to deliver a 1-year project on community arts demonstrations. CLA provided mentorship and small grants to support them in carrying out all responsibilities for the project, such as communication, marketing, production, and audience development and outreach. Creating this space for hands-on experience enabled young people to (re)connect with ICH and better realize its value in Cambodian society.
Apart from public youth engagement, CLA understands that investment in the next generation of Cambodian artists is crucial. While previous generations of artists tend to see themselves as preservers of ICH, the younger post-conflict generation tends to recognize arts and culture as a tool for social change and creative expression through ICH. As a result, we also provide tools and platforms for artists to tell stories that are relevant to them. We offer funding for new commissions, open calls for new plays and creative workshops. We create platforms such as our Cultural Season to present new talent while creating a space for dialogue among artists, audiences and relevant stakeholders to discuss ICH and society. CLA seeks to engage young artists and enable them to tell their stories in their own words, which is significant in keeping the arts alive.

 “[…]Young artists are moving on from using the Khmer Rouge as a starting point for creative expression and are interested in a variety of social issues.” (Creative Expression and Contemporary Arts Making Among Young Cambodians, Amanda Rogers, p.9) 

“I want to show everyone who had the same experience as me to stand up and fight back. They can do it as I already did. People criticize and devalue who I am doing by saying that a classical dancer like me is useless. They criticize us because we are gay. […] I want to encourage our young people who are experiencing any form of discrimination to be hopeful because people in Cambodia nowadays are more open to LGBT. Our country is moving forward. (CHOUNG Veasna, Choreographer and dancer) 
In conclusion, ICH is not a fixed an object and it is not just about the past; ICH is a part of daily life. This means that although a particular art form might be a traditional one, the artists that bring an art form to life and convey its content are still part of contemporary Cambodia, and they serve to keep traditional art forms relevant. As a result, ICH will continue to evolve with future generations through the living arts.

Jointly Organised By

National Heritage Board