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Season of Cambodia festival: The Flowering Parachute Skirt: Gathering and Procession

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Columbia University Morningside Campus Lawn just east of Buell Hall (between Buell and Philosophy)

A parachute from the Vietnam War, transformed by Cambodian artist Leang Seckon into an emblem of reconciliation, will be the centerpiece of a public peace gathering involving Vietnamese and Cambodian survivors of that war as well as U.S. veteransat Columbia University on May 1 at 5 p.m. The event will take place at 5 p.m. outside Buell Hall and is open to the public.

The parachute, which fell to earth in Seckons village during the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, has been repurposed into a sculpture, Flowering Parachute Skirt, and decorated with flowers cut from sarongs from his home village as well as from fabrics given by the Cambodian-American community in the Bronx turning it into the skirt of a fantastical soldier figure.

Arn Chorn-Pond, genocide survivor and founder of Cambodian Living Arts, will join Seckon, along with other survivors and U.S. veterans, in a ritual to help both groups heal from the trauma of that war. By adding beauty to this object of war, I hope to transform it into an instrument of peace and healing, Seckon said.

All of us need to heal, said Chorn-Pond. The young men who were drafted, the villagers who suffered and even those who orchestrated the war all of us were hurt by the violence. The best way for one of us to heal is for all of us to come together.

Seckon is in New York with the Season of Cambodia Festival, for a three-week residency at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.  He had already repurposed the parachute kept in a Buddhist temple for 40 years into a work of art, but it was during a workshop with local Khmer and Vietnamese women that the parachute was transformed yet again.

According to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the parachute was most likely used for the precision infiltration of Special Operations Forces.

On May 1 known around the world as a day for offering flowers and celebrating rebirth the Flowering Parachute Skirt will be at the center of a public gathering hosted outside Buell Hall by the Columbia Maison Franaise, where a Season of Cambodia Festival exhibition on display through May 4 presents artworks about the Khmer Rouge genocide by Vann Nath, Sra and emerging Cambodian artists. After some words by the artist and a Vietnam veteran, flute playing by Arn, and a moment of quiet reflection with a Cambodian monk, the Flowering Parachute Skirt will be carried in a short processional on the campus.

Columbia was the site of some of the most significant moments of the peace movement in the U.S., Seckon said. It is fitting that this event will take place here.