RY “FIA” MONISOVANYA IS A MULTI-MEDIA ARTIST AND DESIGNER USING THE ARTS TO CHAMPION WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND ENVRIONMENTALISM
Arn Chorn-Pond Living Arts Scholar, RY “Fia” MoniSovanya, wears many hats. She’s a painter, performance artist and graphic designer who fundamentally believes the arts are a tool for social change.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Arn Chorn-Pond Living Arts Scholarship, Fia took a moment to update us on her current projects advocating for women’s rights and environmentalism and shared some reflections on the impact of the scholarship on her artistic practice.
As an artist, what themes attract you the most and why?
Fia: I use art, painting and performance art as tools. I believe the arts are a tool for social change and I use it to spread my advocacy messages on women’s rights, environmental causes and broadly issues I see as important in society.
What are your current projects?
Fia: In 2019 I was doing performances related to plastic-free and 2020 until now I’m working on women’s rights. With women’s rights I’m doing a performance and painting project related to stereotypes about women in Cambodia. Specifically, with the saying, ‘women can only move around the stove.’ I disagree with this statement.
“We need to unlock ourselves from our stereotypes and advocate for our rights to be educated and make our dreams come true. So we have the chance to dream.“
The stereotype downplays all the work women do at home. Women should be more empowered and admired for their work at home and outside. Some people believe that girls should not go to study. They think even if a girl goes to study, she will become a wife and mother. So she cannot do anything without doing housework. It’s just a very lockdown way to view women that doesn’t allow her dreams to come true.
So, I’m doing a project to unlock women from these stereotypes. To unlock ourselves it starts with us, as women, we have to know our rights. We have the key to unlock ourselves and we need to participate in society. We need to unlock ourselves from our stereotypes and advocate for our rights to be educated and make our dreams come true. So we have the chance to dream.
Could you tell me about your motorbike trip across Cambodia?
Fia: I traveled around Cambodia not only riding a motorbike alone, but sometimes drove a car with friends and family. I did this because I love to travel and I want to stop people thinking that women can not go far from home or go alone without a family member.
I want to be a role model. For example, if riding a motorbike alone in the same place and one is a woman and the other a man, and people inflict harm on the solo woman traveler, [society should see] that it’s the people who did the harm’s fault, not the woman for being there.
I want to encourage women to be brave and love themselves. We are born as women and we have the right to travel and do what we want. Not just stay at home. So, I decided to complete traveling to the 25 provinces in August 2020.
Your first year as a scholarship recipient was in 2019? Could you tell me why you applied?
Fia: I applied because the scholarship would help me to advance my mission to spread my vision and messages [to society]. It also helped me have a chance to study more and train myself with artistic and personal development.
Which training during the scholarship stood out to the most and why?
Fia: Going to Jombok Hoas gave me more vision for developing myself. It taught me the value of communication. During that time I was communicating with my peers in the program and there I built up my connection with them to know each other more. The challenges of climbing tall trees and having to jump out of them, step by step, gave me lessons to believe in myself and in others. To see our differences and believe we can do what we set our minds to.
“I want all Cambodians to see my message through my artwork and inspire them to love themselves — no matter their gender.”
Another memorable training was in the second year of the scholarship. I went to study art history and visit a building designed by Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann. Even though I’m an artist this helped me understand better about art in Cambodia. Art history helped me to build my artistic skill. It helped me to open my mind to create new artwork.
What type of impact do you want your artwork to have?
Fia: As an artist and as a Cambodian woman, I want all Cambodians to see my message through my artwork and inspire them to love themselves — no matter their gender. Especially, to let them know that we belong to ourselves and not to someone else. And that they can use their voice to change society.
Written by Danielle KHLEANG
Quotes have been edited lightly for length and clarity.