Collecting firewood with his two brothers, Sopphart stepped on a land mine. When his brothers rushed toward their younger sibling, one of them ran into the tripwire of another mine, triggering a second explosion. Not only did Sopphart lose part of one foot and sight in one eye; he also lost his two brothers.
Sopphart’s parents, who live in a village near the Thai border, can’t afford to give him an education. He wants to become a teacher.
Living with Land Mines is an exhibition of 16 life-size portraits of Cambodian children who have survived a land mine accident. Photographed by Toronto-based V. Tony Hauser, the exhibit was produced in collaboration with the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg.
Both the exhibition and it’s photographer will be at IRSA’s Eighth Annual Night of A Thousand Dinners this coming Tuesday, November 23rd. Tickets are on sale both at the IRSA office (SUB 30G) and online at irsa.rezgo.com. Tickets are $40 for students and $80 for community members.
Tony Hauser travelled to Siem Reap, Cambodia, in May 2006 to document 16 children who live at the Cambodia Land Mine Museum. One of the most compelling aspects of the museum is that it serves as a rescue center for the land mine amputee children. Along with providing a dormitory and a school, the museum also acts as a medical clinic that serves as a rehabilitation center, and a training facility for land mine accident prevention and safety.
This is what V. Tony Hauser said about photographing the children:
Upon being confronted with people who suffer from seemingly overwhelming adversity, my first reaction is often a sense of helplessness. I feel helpless because I’m not a medicine man or a priest, capable of mending a body or saving a soul. I’m a photographer. All I do is observe the world around me, and most often I seek to find beauty in everything at which I point my camera.
After spending three weeks documenting how people in India and Cambodia cope with HIV/AIDS, I sought to photograph the human accomplishments and beauty of the historic ruins of Angkor Wat. Naturally, I was impressed by the artistry of the ancient temples and thought their magnificence to be uplifting. But in the shadows of the temples, on a side road to Angkor Wat, I found a different kind of beauty: the dignity of these young victims of land mines.
A year after I first encountered the residents at the Aki Ra Land Mines Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I returned to photograph them in 2006. Equipped with a 4 x 5 view camera, Polaroid film and a seamless canvas backdrop, I purposely chose to isolate them from their natural surroundings. Thus I hoped to elevate them and, at the same time, reveal my admiration for their strength and defiance in facing the daily fear of living with land mines.
A decade has passed since almost two thirds of the world’s nations came to Ottawa and signed a treaty, written and presented by the then Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, to stop the manufacture and use of land mines. And for more than eight years, Cambodia has been at peace. However, land mines — these vicious and demonic inventions of modern-day warfare — remain hidden in the landscapes of that and many other countries where conflicts have ravaged the population.
On average, three Cambodians are injured or killed by land mines every day. Many – including the persons looking at us from these panels – are children and young adults. They were born, like you and me, to parents who had the same hopes and aspirations for their children as we have for ours.
Unless we can convince politicians and governments in Canada and the rest of the world that land mine use must be stopped and mine fields must be cleared, we are inadvertently contributing to the devastation of human lives for many more generations everywhere.
Want to support the plight of children like Sopphart and be apart of ridding the world of landmines? Come to N1KD!
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