Hackney pupils visit Cambodian Recollections exhibition


Hackney school children have been hearing and learning from the personal stories of refugees who have settled in Hackney and made it their home.

More than 250 children have so far visited Cambodian Recollections: an exhibition of oral histories, a collection of UK-based Cambodians' memories of the upheaval and purges from 1975 to 1979 along with stories on the challenges of adapting to a new culture.

Cambodia has a rich and diverse heritage but during the 1970s and 1980s nearly two million people died or were killed as result of the turmoil in the country. Many hundreds of thousands Cambodians fled the country to start again elsewhere, including Hackney.

The children heard the story of Dayanny So, who, as a child, fled Cambodia with his family, bringing with him precious photographs, trinkets and memories that he shared with the children.

Dayanny So said: “My childhood rights were abused by the Khmer Rouge regime. When I grew up, I had no choice but to escape from Cambodia because of its corrupt government. I think it is important children and adults learn from this kind of harrowing history, so we can stop it from happening again.”

Cllr Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, Hackney Council
Many people from across the world have settled in Hackney and made it their home. The Cambodian Recollections exhibition is a wonderful example of how we can use art to educate. It’s really touching to see poems, prayers and messages of hope showing compassion and solidarity with children caught in conflict and in desperate migration situations around the world in 2015.
Cllr Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, Hackney Council

Children also discovered the stories of Vietnamese refugees who settled in Hackney more than 30 years ago and of Maurice Nwokeji, a child who survived the Biafran war of independence and sought refuge in Hackney in 1971.

A high proportion of the children taking part in the museum workshops had refugee experiences themselves and after hearing the stories of Dayanny and Maurice were encouraged to share and reflect on their own family experiences as part of a wider discussion about migration. The children wrote messages of hope on origami boats to children around the world caught in conflict today.

Jennice, 9, St. Dominic’s Primary School said: “I learnt about people going to Hackney as a safe haven and the Cambodian people.”

Lila, 9, St. Dominic’s Primary School said: “I enjoyed making paper origami boats and making wishes to help refugee children today.”

Cambodian Recollections exhibition runs until 14 Nov 2015. It was installed to celebrate Refugee Week, in partnership with SEA Arts and Khmer Heritage Ltd, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Hackney Museum offers schools learning sessions on a variety of subjects for all ages and abilities. Sessions use maps, objects, stories and migration suitcases to unlock the rich history of our local area and the experiences of people who have settled in Hackney over time.

Listen to Dayanny So’s story.