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NCP Scholar connects Thailand and Australia through art and stories

23 Feb 2017

 

Article by Shon Ho, Australia- ASEAN Council intern at the Australian Embassy, Thailand

 NCP Sara_resize.jpg

New Colombo Plan Scholar Sara Khamkoed hopes to develop connections between Thailand and Australia through art, stories and understanding.

The New Colombo Plan (NCP) is an Australian Government initiative aimed at fostering stronger ties in the Indo-Pacific region by supporting Australian students in internships, mentorships and undergraduate studies in 40 participating countries.

Through the scholarship in 2017, Sara has been given the opportunity to study in Thailand at Mahidol University before undertaking an internship at Nanmeebooks Publishing in Bangkok and a five month artist residency at Ne'na Contemporary Art Space in Chang Mai to develop a children’s book set in Thailand.

“Thailand’s always been a country that I have absolutely loved.” she said.

“I’ve travelled in Thailand before, my husband is Thai, it’s a country that I’ve always felt very connected to.”

“When I heard about the New Colombo Plan I instantly knew that Thailand was where I wanted to go because I’d love to have a future career here in this country.”

For Sara, a Visual Arts and Education student at the Southern Cross University, the NCP has enabled her to deepen her interest in Thai art and culture.

“I love art that tells a story. Traditional Thai art forms such as the murals found temple walls and shadow puppets communicate stories. Visually this work is so beautiful and intricate too."

“The colours, the food, the smells, the people and culture of Thailand and also the contemporary art - everything about it is so inspiring for me. I think I can find a little story in the everyday - Thailand is such a wonderful and vibrant country to be in.”

The NCP Scholarship assists students in tuition fees and expenses while they study and undertake placements abroad for a year. In 2015, the Australian Government committed over $100 million dollars of funding to the program over 5 years.

Recently, Sara attended an intensive month long language course at the Lanta International Language School.

“Being able to learn more of the language and being able to read Thai script has just opened up a whole new opportunity for me to connect on a deeper level with Thai people and engage in more in depth conversations.” she said

Beyond enriching academic engagement in neighbouring countries, the NCP program allows students to develop professional skills and gain industry experience in practical work environments related to their prospective careers.

“I think that’s going to be such a wonderful experience for me as an aspiring author and illustrator to be able to go into a publishing company and see things from the inside. How does a book come together? How does an original manuscript become selected? How do companies work with the author to develop and improve that manuscript?”

The NCP aim to build lasting relationships between Australia and countries in Asia and the Pacific.

“To be able to connect to businesses and publishing companies in Thailand is a really wonderful opportunity that could possibly develop into further connections and work in the region.” Sara said.

Sara will research, write and illustrate her children’s book during her residency in Chang Mai and is applying for a grant to develop a community arts project that will explore place and memory - a project that she hopes she will bring back to Australia.

“As a mother with two Thai Australian children, I’ve searched in libraries and bookstores in Australia for children’s books set in Thailand or with Thai characters, and there’s very few.” she said. Sara believes that creative expression is essential for connecting to other cultures and has enjoyed studying creative writing with her Thai peers as part of her trimester at Mahidol University.

"Books are a powerful way to connect and examine what it is to be human. By reading about people and cultures that are different from our own, we are able to develop empathy. We experience what is in other people's hearts and minds," she said.

Whether it be through meeting new people, fulfilling curiosities or establishing networks for future opportunities, Sara is keen to stay open to the possibilities provided by her NPC scholarship and will continue to expand her ideas for her art as she travels.

“I think the New Colombo Plan [has given me] such an amazing opportunity to develop as an artist because I’m able to connect with art organisations and artists internationally. Through this I can learn new skills, see new ways of creating and make connections which could lead to future collaborations in Thailand and the Indo-Pacific Region,” Sara said.

“Having a five month artist residency will give me the time and space to really focus on my work and develop my skills as a writer and artist. I'm very grateful for such a valuable opportunity and want to make the most of it."

“Exposure to different types of contemporary and traditional Thai art will influence my own work in ways that just wouldn’t be possible in Australia.”

Between 120 to 150 NCP scholarships are expected to be awarded in 2018.

“The New Colombo Plan scholarship is such a wonderful opportunity for students to be able to access all different areas and businesses and connect with people from different disciplines.” Sara said.

“It’s such a diverse opportunity. Students are able to really tailor their scholarship to suit their needs and to suit their aspirations and goals of what they want to achieve.”

You can read more about Sara’s experiences in Thailand so far on https://sarakhamkoed.com/

 

Sara’s illustrations :

 

Sara1_Colour my world.png             SK9.png              Sara5_jump.png

 

    SK10.png        Sara7_Lychee pattern.png              Sara3_Cockatoos grey tree.png

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