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Carlotta Zarattini (Italy): The White Building, A Mirror of Cambodia

Inge Morath Award Finalist, 2012

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© Carlotta Zarattini from "The White Building", 2012Families and businessmen, elderly and children, drug addicts and poets, all live in the same building, a unique microcosm of Cambodian society. The White Building mirrors Phnom Penh’s hidden soul. It throbs and hums like a hodgepodge construction, but carries a distinct flavor left since its construction in 1963, when it was supposed to host the athletes of the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. Now a mixture between a slum and a sanctuary, its residents include poets and illiterates, newly-weds and mistresses. As sunlight shines through window slits and shadows are cast on its white walls, the people within learn to tell time. Life in the White Building remains a distinctly Cambodian narrative, plastered by graffiti and stories that reach into memories and dreams.

In the 1960s Cambodia saw a renaissance in architecture and the arts. Phnom Penh flourished. Amidst a positive outlook on the potential for a bright future, one of history’s darkest chapters was about to begin. The Khmer Rouge regime took power in 1970. Cambodia changed forever. During the following years, the country saw its colors fade. Eyes lost shimmer. … read more

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