Bridging Cambodian Culture

April 2nd, 2010

Produced by Karen Smyles
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In this episode of the Art of Life segment, Producer Karen Smyles profiles Cambodian refugee Rorng Sorn who lives and works in Philadelphia as Executive Director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia.

Rorng Sorn's story is like many who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 70's. After living as a refugee in Thailand for eight years, Rorng and her family arrived in Philadelphia. Today Rorng is worried that too many young Cambodian children grow up in cities across America and know little about their own history and their culture.

At the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, they started a dance project complete with traditional clothing worn by the students. Through this project, young Cambodian children learn the art form of Khmer Classical Dance. It is a way to not only teach young Cambodians about what it means to be a Cambodian, by sharing this art form with others, it becomes a bridge between different communities.

More Information

To learn more about Cambodian dance check out Earth in Flower: The Divine Mystery of the Cambodian Dance Drama, by Dr. Paul Cravath. Cravath is a scholar who spent several years in Cambodia and Thailand researching and photographing the art form.

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The Khmer Art Gallery

The Khmer Art Gallery is a treasure buried in the heart of Chinatown. It's the first Cambodian art gallery in Philadelphia and may be the first of its kind on the East Coast. The owners are Bob Weinstein and Bonna Neang Weinstein, of Abington, PA. Bonna's story, like many Cambodian refugees, is a traumatic one. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1984 after being confined from her family, and concluding that her death would be certain.

The Weinsteins believe that art has the power to heal and also feel a strong sense of social responsibility. Through the gallery, they provide learning opportunities to all cultures and a deep undertanding of Cambodian history and culture. Learn more about the gallery and all of it's offerings, visit

Friday Arts Extra:

Extended interview
with Rorng Sorn

Watch the video >
The road from the countryside of Cambodia, to the urban streets of Philadelphia, was not an easy one for Rorng Sorn. Still, she achieved the education she so desired, earning a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In return, she serves her community through her role as Executive Director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia. Hear in her own words, what life was like for her family during the Khmer Rouge and the devastation that followed, and how she got to where she is today.

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