New Victory Arts Break: White Gold

Rice is a staple food in many Southeast Asian cultures, so much so that in Khmer, the language of Cambodia, phrases and expressions about eating, hunger and nourishment contain the word for rice—បាយ, pronounced “bai”—whether or not rice is involved (although it probably is!). This week on New Victory Arts Break, inspired by Phare’s exhilarating circus White Gold, we’ll create art inspired by both rice and the cultural food traditions of our own loved ones. Let’s go!

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New Victory Arts Break: White Gold

Some of the videos in this Arts Break were filmed at the New Victory Theater. We acknowledge that New Victory resides on the seized homeland of the Lenape people and the intertribal territory of many First Nations. We celebrate and pay deep respect to all Indigenous peoples, past, present and future, and we encourage you to learn more about these vibrant communities.

Before the Show: Rice Art

Cambodians eat rice with nearly every meal, and that means they grow a lot of it. They also sell and ship it around the world—you’ve probably eaten rice grown in Cambodia! In White Gold, you’ll notice some characters on stage celebrating and sharing rice while others greedily try to keep it for themselves. You’ll also notice an artist on stage painting panels that illustrate these themes:

Two painted square panels, one in grey, black and yellow splatters with a geometric symbol, and another in red with black and white silhouettes of two people

Let’s create our very own pieces of visual art appreciating the importance and beauty of rice.

Materials: Paper and a marker (or use our template); glue; a box, tupperware or other large container; uncooked rice

Worksheet with "rice" and "hope" written in large Khmer script

Step One: Using a marker, draw out one of the Khmer words above nice and big on a sheet of paper. If you’ve printed our template, you can skip this step!

Step Two: Use glue to trace the outlines of the letters.

Step Three: Place your paper in an empty container like a box or large piece of tupperware and pour rice all over the top of it. Don’t worry, it will only stick to the places where you’ve added glue.

Step Four: Make sure you leave time for your piece to dry. When you’re sure it’s dry, carefully pour off the excess rice and admire your rice art!

Sometimes ideas can be expressed through visual symbols rather than words. What would your symbol for hope be? A sun? A rainbow? Draw your symbol and repeat the glue and rice steps above.

On the Way: Fun Facts

On your way to White Gold at Stage 42, take some time to learn a few facts about Cambodia.

Facts About Cambodia

  1. Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
  2. 17 million people call Cambodia home.
  3. The native language of Cambodia is Khmer. Khmer uses an alphabet with 33 consonants, and sometimes the letters change their shape when they come after other letters!
  4. Khmer is also the name of a Cambodian style of classical dance that is over 1,000 years old.
  5. An ensemble of percussion players called a Pinpeat orchestra play music to accompany traditional Khmer dance.
  6. Rice accounts for nearly 75% of Cambodia’s agriculture!
  7. Khmer has words for both uncooked rice—អង្ករ pronounced “angkor”—and cooked rice—បាយ pronounced “bai.”

Working with your family, come up with some fun facts about your cultural traditions!

  • What is a food that you always eat together?
  • Is there a dance you all do together?
  • What languages does your family speak?
  • Does your family have any holiday traditions?
  • Is there a symbol that you would associate with your family?

Jot down your answers and share them with some friends so they can learn more about you and where your family comes from.

After the Show: Art from Listening

Learning more about other people’s traditions and the places they come from can be an enlightening experience. In White Gold, you witnessed several Cambodian artistic traditions and learned about the importance of rice in Cambodian culture. With the help of New Victory Teaching Artist ChelseaDee Harrison and Jhaunay from the New 42 Youth Corps, let’s learn how to take the cultural food traditions of our loved ones and create some art that honors them!

ChelseaDee's symbol for Peter: A heart radiating lines of warmth with "We're good" and "Warmth & Confidence" written underneath

Materials: A pencil and notebook for note-taking, paper and markers, an interview guide

Step One: Decide who you’d like to honor and let them know that you’ll be interviewing them in order to create a symbol.

Step Two: Begin the interview process! You can use some of the questions from our interview guide or think of your own. Remember to take notes during this process—you’ll need them later!

Interview Guide

  • Where is your family from? Where do they feel most rooted?
  • What is a dish that your family makes on special occasions?
  • How do you feel when you eat this dish?
  • Can you remember the first time you ate it?
  • What does this dish consist of? What’s the star ingredient?
  • What does it taste like? Can you describe it in three words?
  • What does it look like? Is it colorful?
  • What special occasion is this dish made for?
  • What colors come to mind when you think of this special occasion?
  • Where does your family usually celebrate this special occasion?
  • How do you feel when you think about this special occasion?

Step Three: When you feel as though you’ve collected enough information, begin sorting through your notes and highlighting any words about color, feelings and places.

Step Four: Pick one color, one feeling and one place to inspire your symbol creation. Remember, this can be as abstract as you like! Try not to draw the literal food.

Jhaunay's symbol for ChelseaDee: A pink flower in the shape of a heart atop a long green stem, with "Family Dinner" and "Comfort" written above and below

Show your symbol to the person who inspired it. Ask them how it feels to have a piece of art inspired by their family’s tradition, and see if they’d be interested in interviewing you!

And Beyond: Dive into culture... and circus!

The show is over, but there’s still plenty to learn about Cambodia! Practice some Khmer words and phrases with Miss Jessica, enjoy a musical geography lesson from Kids Learning Tube and visit the historic temple of Angkor Wat with Hogie the Globehopper.

If you enjoyed the music and dance in White Gold, read A Stamp A Day‘s post about the history and instruments of the Pinpeat orchestra and watch dancer Prumsodun Ok’s TED Talk on the richness of Khmer classical dance.

And if you’re eager to try out some of White Gold‘s art forms at home, check out more activities from our infinitely creative New Victory Teaching Artists.

New Victory Teaching Artist Billy Schultz
Produce your own impressive circus act using household objects with Billy Schultz.
New Victory Teaching Artist Olney Edmondson
Use paint and your breath to create unique pieces of visual art with Siobhan Santini Pellot.
New Victory Teaching Artist Gyana Mella
Hup! Grab a friend and practice some partner acrobatic poses with Gyana Mella.

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