Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The closing chapter of my photo-documentary of my visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum will be the Vann Nath paintings. Vann Nath, a gentle and proud man who I have met during an exhibition of his paintings at the Bophana Center, was one of a handful of survivors to escape from Tuol Sleng. He recalls that in November 1979 he was asked to return to S-21 to record his memories onto canvas - it was his skills as an artist that had kept him alive during his year at Tuol Sleng. There are 15 of his paintings hanging in the final room of Block D. Most of them are now in glass-frames which makes it difficult to photograph them due to reflections showing in the glass. The same applies to most of the pictures of the S-21 victims. On my earlier visits, there were no glass-frames but in order to preserve the materials, this has been a necessary addition. Tuol Sleng is also a necessary, though heart-wrenching, museum dedicated to the Cambodian nightmare. To gain a measure of what took place in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime, a visit to Tuol Sleng is essential.