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CAMBODIAN GIRL

Dreamed 1996/4/2, sculpture 1999, by Chris Wayan


I dream I'm in a cafe. I meet my friend Silky, who said she'd be wearing yellows and greens. No problem finding her amid the businesspeople--Silky's in a cloud of loose, layered, gauze skirts over a green leotard.

She says "Don't worry, you'll find a girlfriend soon." I'm happy--Silky's predictions are pretty reliable.

A Cambodian girl walks up to us and stares silently. I stare back: she's under 5 feet tall, but about 3 feet of that is leg. A child's torso and head on adult legs! Both sexy and creepy--long bare legs revealed by a little girl's short dress. And why'd she walk up just when Silky said that? Felt like the prediction summoned her, like she appeared in answer. But I want a WHOLE girl like Silky, not a distorted refugee! Or is this just a growth-stage? Maybe she'll grow into proportion.

She acts shy, yet sits at our table without asking. She faces me exactly, so I see right up her tiny skirt. She's naked under the dress--her cunt's bare. Rosy, smooth, a little girl's lips, even more naked without adult hair--between adult thighs. I'm shocked but excited too--and ashamed. Glance away, look back, then think "SHE's flashing ME! I'm not the one doing it. Though... she seems embarrassed, not flirty... like she was ORDERED to do this."

Left closeup of dream-statue. Cambodian refugee girl haunted by revolutionary memories
She asks me shyly "Do your friend's clothes mean she is... prostitute?"

I say firmly "The colors mean spring, life and growth. Those casual thin layers showing her body say prostitute in your culture, but here they say 'I'm a dancer, I'm calm and friendly.'" She ponders. I start to respect her: a child's face, but those precocious legs carried her out of the holocaust. Proportion's not everything! She asks "What's sexually PROPER here?" And I get it. She's still haunted by the killing fields.

I know the feeling: I was raised by leftists. If I'm sexist, if I flirt wrong--it's the firing squad. I too act like a prostitute: fill others' needs and fantasies, stunting and distorting myself. It's time to face the shadow of my heritage.

right closeup of Cambodian girl and her traumatic memories
So when I woke, I sculpted her, as a reminder. I wish now that I'd made her even more distorted, younger and shyer above the waist, even leggier and more adult below--Barbie dolls have numbed us so much that this statue, because she's Barbie-scale, looks almost normal. Yet if you met a living person proportioned like this, you'd be shocked. I'm curious how she'll look on the Web, without a real-world context to show you she's doll-size. Cambodian refugee girl dressing like a prostitute but quite repressed, haunted by revolutionary memories. Full view of sculpture. Click to enlarge.

A word on the background, which seems to mystify people--even mislead them.

The hooded figure isn't merely Death, but leftist extremism. Hammer and Sickle, not just sickle! I grew up always watching my thoughts, trying to be as pure in my way as any fundamentalist--and finding the world less black and white than my childhood teachings. (But I still vote Green. Do you even vote? Huh?)

The yinyang stands for Asia; I tried to sculpt a proper Buddhist lotus/wheel-of-the-law but my woodworking just wasn't up to it, so let's pretend the yinyang stands for the Hinayana Buddhism of Cambodia, not Chinese Taoism, okay? They do have a quiet acceptance in common, a drive toward harmony not heroic resistance. Did that help make the killing fields possible, did people see the holocaust as merely a bad dream?

Yin and Yang also reflect the figure-field reversals that people raised by true believers feel as we grow up... as experience turns our trained certainties on their heads. In every Yang, a drop of Yin...

And yes, the vaginal shape of the boat isn't a coincidence. I have to admit, though, that the shrouded figure of radicalism, in just the right place for a clit (it's even hooded) was completely unconscious. And a bit strange, really, given the puritanical nature of the Khmer Rouge; yet this image of a vaginal boat with a powerful but repressive clitoral figure repeated in another dream around the same time, THIEF OF DREAMS.

Sex and repression, completely fused... weird!
Bas-relief of Cambodia, detail of the dream-sculpture 'Cambodian Girl.' Bas-relief of California, detail of the dream-sculpture 'Cambodian Girl.'

The silhouettes to left and right are of course Cambodia and California. You recognize them, right? I don't expect everyone to know Cambodian script (or U.S. postal abbreviations) but you DID study geography in school, right? Well, I was stunned to learn when I showed this to my sculpture classmates, not one had a clue what those shapes were... and one of them's their own home state!

Anyway, from killing fields to California... it's a hard journey to make. Many steps. May your legs hold out!

And once you've made it out, and you're safe and free... then your soul has to catch up. A last step everyone wants to forget.

But our bodies just won't.

Cambodian refugee girl in her boat...


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