Double amputee artist Morn Chear adjusts a tool while creating a linocut block printed design.
Whispered insults, social isolation, and lost opportunities -- Morn Chear is channelling the stigma he has endured since he lost both his hands a decade ago into artwork that highlights the hardships of Cambodia's disabled.
At 20, he was electrocuted in a construction accident and both his hands developed gangrene, pushing doctors to amputate them below the elbow.
"I was depressed, I did not know what I could do to earn money to feed my family," he tells a section of media of the shock he felt when he woke up from surgery.
Ten years later, Chear has found his place at an arts collective based in Siem Reap, where he specialises in Linocut block printing -- a technique rarely used in Cambodia.
Open Studio Cambodia represent several contemporary artists, selling their pieces out of an airy studio in the heart of a city famed for the Angkor Wat temple complex.
Linocut block printing requires a deft handle to chisel a scene into a block of linoleum, and then applying ink on the print toter he lost his arms.
"Most of my artwork are all about my real stories," he tells a section of media, gesturing at a piece that features himself sitting in a hammock as others walk towards a pagoda.
Chear remembers the incident of his friends snubbing him clear as day -- "Don't call him to come with us, he is handicapped, it's embarrassing," he recalls them whispering.
Overcoming stigma –
A survey last year by the Cambodian disabled People's Organisation found that 60 percent of the country's disabled live below the poverty line.
Government officials say 310,000 people out of Cambodia's 16 million-strong population have disabilities -- though the number is likely higher as many fall between the gaps.
Discrimination is rife, with Cambodians seeing the disabled as street beggars or a burden to their families.
For Chear, the social isolation from once-friendly peers was the most cutting.
He was nicknamed "A-Kambot" by villagers, a derogatory Khmer word for the handicapped, after his return home -- which "pierced" him deeply, and made him question whether if life was worth living.
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Relief came in 2015 when he was recruited into a non-profit group's training program -- teaching him contemporary dance, drawing, computer skills, and even English.
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