Today is International Youth Day, and to celebrate we conducted an interview with artist and clay animator, Souliya Phoumivong. In 2016 Souliya’s company, Clay House Studio, received a grant from the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) program’s, Basic Education Innovation Fund (BEIF), to develop a series of Claymation videos called ”Learn Together”.

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In Laos, a complex country with great diversity, children come from a range of diverse backgrounds when they start school, often from remote regions with their own language, and with no educational history in their family.

To address this, the Australian Government works with the Ministry of Education and Sports and the European Union, through BEQUAL, to help more children, especially the most disadvantaged, to complete a quality basic education. The BEIF grant program delivers grants for innovations to improve education in Laos.

Learn Together is a fun, creative television series designed to deliver messages through clay animation to children in rural Laos, helping them to learn life skills, and promoting the benefits of education to Lao children and their parents.

Having trained in Singapore and Japan, Souliya now works in Vientiane as a Media Artist, specialising in stop motion animation, video, photography and fine art, and lectures at the National Institute of Fine Art in Vientiane in the Department of Communication Design.

For International Youth Day we had the pleasure of asking Souliya about his artistic endeavours, his passion for education, and his high hopes for the future development of his home country, Laos.  

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How did you first become involved in working with Claymation? 

That started in 2010 when I received funding to go to Tokyo to complete an artist in-residence project. During my stay I thought this is an amazing chance to find out more and learn about animation. That was where my first Claymation was born.

When did you start your business, Clay House Studio?

I started Clay House Studio in 2012. At that time, it was a very small studio with just myself and two students who were my assistants.

 

Did you always want to use your skills for supporting children’s education, or have you worked in other areas too?

In the beginning I expected Clay House Studio would be a place for creating clay animation art work, which may be featured in Laos local exhibitions and screenings, I didn’t expect it to be used in other industries. However, when I was invited to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) workshop organised by UNICEF I realised Clay House Studio could also help to support children’s education.

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What inspired you to apply for a BEQUAL Education Innovation Fund grant? 

Children in Laos have unequal and poor opportunities, especially those who live in Rural areas. This inspired me to apply for the Fund grant. As a teacher I know education is the most important tool for the future.

What has been a highlight of your experience working with BEQUAL so far?

I am so proud to be a part of the BEQUAL project and to receive the wonderful opportunity of using my skills to develop the new education’s media. BEQUAL gave me great support; not only the BEIF fund but also the team. They gave constructive advice, were flexible and understanding. I have learnt a lot through this experience.

Do you have a vision for the future of Laos?

As a Lao person, I would like to see the country develop, an equal society, and most importantly of all, see all Lao children around the country have access to quality education because education is the future.

What are your hopes and ambitions for Clay House Studios?

In the future Clay House Studio won’t be only the place for producing Claymation, but it will be a learning space for everyone who is interested in this kind of work. I hope it will be a space for sharing ideas and experiences to inspire new generations.

In five years’ time, what would you like to see as an impact of your work?

In five years’ time, I would like to see everyone in Laos know these ‘Learn Together’ characters, and for children to love them and use them as a model for their learning. My biggest expectation is I would like to see my work become a part of Laos education system in schools.

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You can see more of Souliya’s fantastic work on YouTube including the ‘My Village’ 102 – 2017 series he created for UNICEF in Laos, and a behind the scenes special in English. Keep up with the progress of Clay House Studio on their Facebook page, and watch the trailer for the ‘Learn Together’ series on the BEQUAL website.

Coffey is proud to manage BEQUAL on behalf of the Australian Government and the European Union, supports the Government of Lao PDR, providing quality literacy, numeracy and other life skills to children from disadvantaged regions in Laos.