ADANA is a French-Cambodian artist and activist (artivist) who integrates art expression, psychological trauma and her personal experiences with social activism.
She launched her career with her first exhibition in New York in 2019 followed by 13 more international exhibitions, including in Paris, Brussels, Bangkok, Sydney and Phnom Penh. Adana has participated in several exhibitions where the sales of her art were donated to local NGOs, with one reaching $150,000 in fundraising for a psycho-social non-profit organization.
Her paintings have been collected by influential people such as Oscar winner actress Susan Sarandon, Hollywood actress Annalynne McCord, internationally recognized music American composer Chloe Flower and Cambodian/American singer Laura Mam. Recently, the Hong Kong Sotheby’s director of private sales and business tycoon, Mr. Vattanac, acquired her paintings.
Concerning her social activism, Adana was shortlisted along with three other prominent artists, including Red Hong Yi, for Women of the Future Awards South East Asia in the category of Art and Culture. She was endorsed by the Minister of Women’s Affairs, and the Secretary-General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia. Recently, the Director of the Cambodian National Bank nominated her among Asia 21 young leaders.
Having spent most of her life in Cambodia, her first memories were the sound of shots in 1997, the crackle of automatic weapons and mortar explosions, the smell of gunpowder and the panic in her mother’s eyes. The trauma of Cambodian people, and its long term psychological consequences, comes not only from the Khmer Rouge genocide but more than 40 years of civil war and famine, physical and psychological torture, mass displacement and suffering aggravated by a culture of silence and a society in psychological glaciation.
Adana was raised by humanitarian worker parents who fought sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. Going after traffickers, the entire family was under constant death threats. She spent her childhood and adolescence surrounded by armed bodyguards, with strict security protocols avoiding unnecessary movement. At times the entire family had to be urgently exfiltrated to a neighboring country. The time spent in the centers, with children and women victims of sexual exploitation, made her prematurely aware of injustices and the dark side of our societies. Witnessing human right abuses from such an early age informed her education and professional orientation, turning Adana to social work from the red light districts of Phnom Penh to the world stage, where she raised awareness with her parents. These life experiences and environment undoubtedly shaped her future, making her decide to pursue university degree in law and political science in France.
After three years in France, when she was 21, she was forced to abruptly interrupt her studies when diagnosed with lymphoma and forced to endure six months of aggressive chemotherapy. She dealt with her cancer not only through the process of resilience but in nurturing emotional intelligence, strengthening empathy and connection with nature, as well as her art practice. The starting point was when she learned to transform the excruciating chemotherapy’s pain into painting; the act of painting becoming her embodied language to deal with what she was going through.
Her creations express not only her tumultuous life but her psychological ruminations, existential dissonance and bewilderment from being raised between two cultures, Cambodian and French. Willing to better understand herself, she followed this journey with three years of psychoanalysis and a degree in psychology. Her paintings of nude, brown and elegant bodies surrounded by golden halos were a way for Adana to mix suffering and resilience, honoring the stories of exploited women who surrounded her earlier in life. Through her work she seeks to transcend the process of healing by sharing her own vulnerability and using her story to provoke in others conversations on emotional intelligence, empathy and interconnection. Art became the best expression for her activism.