They promote the inclusion of people of all abilities and disabilities through the arts. They use the arts as a form of expression and empowerment to bring people with and without disabilities together.

Epic Arts is an international, inclusive arts organization based in Cambodia and registered as a charity in the UK.

Like so many countries, Cambodia’s treatment of those with mental disabilities can be appalling. There is a toxic mixture of mental disorders lingering in the older generation that survived the Khmer Rouge, a virtually non-existent health care system for mental disorders, especially in rural areas, all coupled with abject poverty. Birth defects are considered punishments for bad karma from previous lives.

Here, it is not uncommon for people with more aggressive mental disorders to be left chained up at home, to protect themselves and to protect the family and neighbors in the absence of more humane treatment options and understanding. The practice is so common that in 2015 the Transcultural Pyschosocial Organisation started “Operation Unchain,” to treat patients in the provinces, unable to come to the few hospitals in the cities. Funds however are quickly running out.

This is the kind of inhuman treatment that Epic Arts strives to fight. Epic Arts was first founded in 2001 with a project creating dances with children in Nanning, China. Seeing the need, they decided to focus on Cambodia, first opening Epic Arts Cafe in Kampot in 2006, and then building a fully accessible arts center in 2009. The center is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, and offers inclusive visual and performing arts classes and education. While Epic Arts focuses on people with physical or mental disabilities, it is open to all.

One of Epic Arts most active external-facing programmes are their performances around the country. Here, young Cambodians can see and, most importantly, find joy through performers who would usually be ostracized for their differences.

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