I’m back in Thailand – this time in Pattani, in the “Deep South”. It’s home to the world-class artist Emsophian Benjametha (เอ็มโซเฟียน เบญจเมธา). For many years he worked in Paris as a designer, but desired to return back home, where most of his neighbor are Muslims – not Buddhists. There, he creates works of art from mud.
“My name is Emsophian Benjametha. This is my ceramic workshop and goat farm. When I was a young boy, my father used bricks from local factories.”
The soil in Pattani Provence, where Em grew up, lends itself to brick making. It’s not a dainty clay, like mud from northern Thailand near Chiang Mai. Instead, the clay in Pattani bubbles up and breaks the surface when it dries. It’s slightly rough to the touch and has an off-white color. But that doesn’t make Pattani’s clay any less valuable. In fact, appearances can be deceitful – like Em’s ‘ugly’ teapot.
“The black teapot is angular and twisted. Most people think it’s unattractive. But there’s beauty inside, because when you drink tea with friends, the teapot fosters the relationship. So the teapot proves that what’s inside is more important than the outside.”
After the teapot, we come to a ceramic piece that resembles a vase. The neck is however too thin, to be able to set flowers in. Em tells me, it’s a jar, just for decoration. Looking closer, I notice that there are jagged, uneven lines on the ceramic of the jar. These fissures are dark at the base, but turn golden as they stretch up towards the neck.
It’s obvious that Em’s Pattani home is a spring of inspiration – from the local mud he crafts his art with, to his childhood memories which flow into his design to even his Muslim faith. “My motto is ‘From Clay, With Clay To Clay’. God created man from the soil. We are sustained from the earth, and some day we will die and return to the soil.”
Discover more about Em and his world-class designs (from ceramics to weavings and scarfs!) at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BenjamethaCeramic/.
After Veasna sold his restaurant in Phnom Penh, he decided to become a YouTube chef. His online videos show in Khmer and English how to cook frogs, spiders and other bugs – as well as more typical Cambodian dishes such as Khmer fish in banana leaves. “Spider tastes a little like peanuts,” says Veasna in an interview.
“I was born in Kampong Cham Provence in a small town,’ says Veasna. “I learned cooking with my mom every day when I was five years old.”
Now Veasna cooks Cambodian food online and gives private classes.
“First we go to market, to buy everything. Then we come back home and clean the fish, meat and vegetables. When my guests taste my food and feel happy, I also feel happy.”
More from Veasna at Veasna in the Kitchen