A Special Painting for a Special Person

Christmas is a special day for kids everywhere, and Little Hearts residents are no different: for months they look forward to this part of the year and prepare for our elaborate Christmas party. But this year was extra special for the Little Hearts family because Tony’s mum, known as Grandma Micky to everyone, was able to celebrate Christmas with all the children here at Little Hearts.

Grandma Micky has been involved in Little Hearts from the very beginning in 2009. She has been here on numerous occasions, so she knows many of the kids well. She always contacts each child on their birthday and follows their progress closely. And she has been an invaluable sounding board to Tony in all his decisions and plans for Little Hearts.

Her visit this Christmas was unique for her personally because it was the first time in more than 20 years that she was able to celebrate Christmas together with all her four children as well as her extended Little Hearts family. Indeed, Tony’s three siblings Jimmy, Caroline, and Patricia all travelled to Cambodia to be here, with one of them Caroline arriving as a surprise for Grandma Micky.

To honour Grandma Micky, three of our most talented young artists decided to create a painting performance during the Christmas party that would culminate in the creation of a special artwork for her. Representing their Saturday afternoon painting group, Ilay, Michael and Sarem were keen to show the audience what they have learnt in their art lessons, so together with their art teacher they came up with different ideas on how to stage a live painting event. They eventually settled on painting a traditional Cambodian apsara (a celestial nymph who dances for the gods in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies) during the Christmas party itself, while other performances were taking place, to demonstrate all the stages of creating a painting from start to finish.

Ilay began by sketching the image of the apsara on cardboard with pencils and pens, and then cut out the shape of the upper body. Sarem painted the background on the canvas and cut the shapes of the apsara’s face and crown, while Michael made the shapes of the lower body. The three artists then assembled all the cut-outs and carefully placed them on the canvas and applied acrylic colours. The live demonstration was conducted with great focus and in silence, the trio working efficiently on their different tasks while collaborating seamlessly on a single artistic product. The painting was completed in just two hours, well before the Christmas party ended, and the result was stunning.

Why did they choose an apsara as a subject? Because it so readily embodies and showcases Cambodian traditions, of course. And why does the apsara they painted have no facial features? Because, as Ilay explains, “the apsara doesn’t have just one face; she represents all the multitude of mythical dancers in the heavens, and thus also all the Cambodians who dress like and perform apsara dances or even just look up to the ideals of beauty, elegance and devotion that apsaras embody.”

The finished painting was presented to Grandma Micky as a gift – a sign of our gratitude for accepting and fulfilling the role of everyone’s adopted grandma so gracefully, and for all she has done to help Tony. It was a poignant moment that moved Grandma Micky to tears. Needless to say, she is already looking forward to her next visit!

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