The city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia hosts public dance lessons most nights on a newly revitalized riverfront directly in front of prime minister Hun Sen’s urban home. Shortly before dusk, much of the city gathers to bust a few Apsara moves and learn a couple choreographed hip- hop steps from a slew of attractive young men at the head of each group. Outside the bustling capital city, the provinces come alive, too, as the nation’s only all-girl political rock group sets up concerts that call into question the international garment trade, traditional gender roles, and agriculture under globalization. Cambodia is changing: not what it once was, not yet what it will be. Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present provides images of a nation’s people emerging from generations of poverty.
Following on the heels of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh, Anne Elizabeth Moore compiled photographs that document Cambodia’s bustling nightlife, the nation’s emerging middle class, and the ongoing struggle for social justice in the beautiful, war-ravaged land.
A series of essays complement the imagery, investigating the relationship between public and private space, mourning and memory, tradition and economic development. It is a document of a nation caught between states of being, yet still deeply affecting.
“Radical” (L.A. Times), “poignant” (Boston Globe), “should not be missed (Time), “a notable underground author” (The Onion), and “brilliant” (Kirkus) are all ways to describe Anne Elizabeth Moore and her writing. The award-winning author and artist has worked for years with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects, and her newest venture is a compilation of photographs and lyrical essays taking readers to the streets of the country’s capital city, Phnom Penh, and out into the countryside— where few get to travel. Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present released Aug. 28, 2012 from Green Lantern Press.
Alternating full color and black and white photographs depict Phnom Penh’s bustling nightlife as locals gather to dance on a newly revitalized riverfront directly in front of their prime minister’s urban home, thus forming a portrait of the nation’s emerging middle class. Images from a southern province depict a nation in dialogue with its government, hoping for development that lifts all citizens. A series of essays complement the imagery, investigating the relationship between public and private space, mourning and memory, tradition and an economic development unrivaled in the last 1,200 years.
“Traditional movements push against young passions,” Moore writes. “Development is fluid and janky. But a generation is learning what comfort feels like, learning what it feels like to have survived. To celebrate, to honor, they dance most nights like they are possessed.”
Hip Hop Apsara aims to break through the cavalier and hardened consciousness many hold about Cambodian culture and its recent, violent, past under the Khmer Rouge.
“People seem rooted in this belief that Cambodia’s very far away and very weird,” Moore said. “It is far away, but for 14 million Cambodians, it’s not weird at all – plus it’s a place the US has had a lot of negative influence over. So it seems like we should know something about it, as Americans.”
A Fulbright scholar, Moore is the Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers: Gender and Comics in the US, and the author of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007) and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004). She was co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct Punk Planet, and founding editor of the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin. She has twice been noted in the Best American Non-Required Reading series.
Anne Elizabeth Moore is a Fulbright scholar, the Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers: Gender and Comics in the US, and the author of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007, named a Best Book of the Year by Mother Jones) and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004). Co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct Punk Planet, and founding editor of the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin, Moore teaches in the Visual Critical Studies and Art History departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She works with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects, and with people of all ages and genders on media and gender justice work in the US. Her journalism focuses on the international garment trade. Moore exhibits her work frequently as conceptual art, and has been the subject of two documentary films. She has lectured around the world on independent media, globalization, and women’s labor issues. The multi-award-winning author has also written for N+1, Good, Snap Judgment, Bitch, the Progressive, The Onion, Feministing, The Stranger, In These Times, The Boston Phoenix, and Tin House. She has twice been noted in the Best American Non-Required Reading series. She has appeared on CNN, WNUR, WFMU, WBEZ, Voice of America, and others. Her work with young women in Southeast Asia has been featured in USA Today, Phnom Penh Post, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out Chicago, Make/Shift, Today’s Chicago Woman, Windy City Times, and Print Magazine, and on GritTV, Radio Australia, and NPR’s Worldview. Moore recently mounted a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and participated in Artisterium, Georgia’s annual art invitational. Her upcoming book, Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present (Green Lantern Press, Aug. 28, 2012), is a lyrical essay in pictures and words exploring the people of Cambodia’s most rampant economic development in at least 1,200 years.
Hardcover, $20 ISBN: 978-1-4507-7526-7 Photo/Essay, 100 pages Green Lantern Press