'Photographic Journey through Asia by Aga Cebula' is a photographic documentation of Aga's trips to South East Asia in 2013 and 2014. The exhibition is divided into three parts:
1. Becoming a Buddhist Monk Ceremony in Began, Myanmar (2014)
Myanmar is a profoundly Buddhist country and almost 90% of its population define themselves as Buddhist. Monks (Bhikkhu) are highly esteemed people, responsible for preserving Buddha's teaching and guiding Buddhist followers.
The path to becoming a monk usually starts around the age of seven with the initiation ceremony called Shinbyu, which has been practised for over 2500 years. The central part of Shinbyu is a procession to the temple with the boys dressed in silk, shielded from the sun by an umbrella and led on horseback by an orchestral band. The family, parents, sisters and the rest of the guests wearing their best clothes complete the procession. Eventually a banquet is prepared and everyone is welcomed to the feast.
Aga's photographs document the day of the ceremony from the early hours of the morning until sunset.
2. Cambodian Living Arts Commission (Charity work, 2013)
Before the Khmer Rouge era, Cambodia was home to some of the most diverse and abundant arts and culture in Southeast Asia. Music, dance, theatre and cinema flowed strongly through the blood of the Cambodian people. There were singers on every corner, musicians in every village - art flourished. But in the years between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge brought a devastating end to all of that. It is estimated that during those years, 2 million Cambodians died from execution, starvation and overwork. It is also believed that among the dead were 90% percent of Cambodia's artists, particularly musician, who were specifically targeted for execution.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, this human and cultural tragedy was compounded by two subsequent decades of crippling economic hardship. Of the Master Artists that survived, few could make a living by performing or teaching.
Since 1998 Cambodian Living Arts has been helping Cambodia's surviving Master Artists to rebuild their lives and pass on their knowledge to the next generation. CLA acquire instruments, rent teaching spaces and pay them a salary.
Aga's work for Cambodian Living Arts was to document the process of passing on the knowledge to the next generation of Cambodian artists.
3. Datuk Chachar festival in Malacca, Malaysia (2013)
Datuk Chachar is an annual Hindu festival in Malacca, dedicated to the goddess Mariamman to give thanks for answered prayers. Those taking part, while in a trance, skewer their flesh with needles or enormous fish hooks and claim this is all happening without pain.
The ceremony starts with loud drumming signals from inside the Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi temple. Then the temple elders poke long needles or enormous fish hooks through the flesh of young men who are clearly in a religious trance. There seems to be no blood but the process is extremely painful and disturbing to watch.
Next comes the procession ' a five kilometre walk to a sister temple. Some of the participants pull chariots carrying images of gods, using ropes attached to their bodies by hooks in their flesh. Officially this is a joyous event.
About the artist:
Aga Cebula was born in Poland in 1976. She grew up in Radom, an industrial city 80 miles south of Warsaw. In 1996 she graduated from nursing college and started working in the Clinical Hospital in Warsaw.
While assisting during operations she developed her own way of looking at patients, whom she saw as silent and static objects that are not aware of what is happening around them. From that perspective they were treated more as objects, centrally placed in the space of an operating theatre, rather than human beings with feelings and emotions. This fascination with the human body and its relationship to the environment and space around it has stayed with her since then.
After 2 years she changed careers and worked in a graphic design studio in Warsaw until 2002, when she permanently moved to London to study photography. In the meantime she gained a degree in Environmental Studies from Radom Polytechnic.
Aga arrived in London with a clear aim - to study arts, especially photography. Since her arrival she has worked as a nurse in a nursing home and committed herself to developing her photographic skills. In 2008 she enrolled on Kingston University BA Photography course, which she completed in 2011, gaining a First Class Honours Degree.
In Aga's initial work she attempted to explore the relationship between body and space. During photo sessions she would assume roles as both photographer and model. She was fascinated with dilapidated, condemned and imagination-rich spaces often arranging herself as part of the environment.
Since graduating from university Aga has been exploring travel photography, focusing on South East Asia. She continues to combine photography with work in the Caring profession.
Aga lives and works in London, UK.