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John Gleisner review of A Certain Grace
"A Certain Grace" by Tony Maturin, 2006
A review by John Gleisner
A Certain Grace, Anthony Maturin, 2006
Price NZ$70 (discount for Friends). All profits from sales are going to some small NGOs working to alleviate poverty on the rural fringes of society in Cambodia.
Available at some bookshops, or email the author, or write to 4 Hoggard Street, Vogeltown, Wellington 6021.
Readers of the Newsletter may recall Tony Maturin’s piece ‘Beethoven in Cambodia’, some reflections on preparing this book. Tony recently spent 2 years in Cambodia together with his wife Sandra who was working as Research Advisor to the Buddhist Institute. Both were supported by VSA New Zealand. Tony is a seasoned overseas volunteer having previously served in Vanuatu, Central America and Iraq. On this occasion he concentrated on photographing the most disadvantaged people in Cambodia. He was assisted by an interpreter and was able to visit a dozen or so NGO’s in and around Phnom Penh but also went to Battambang and Sihanoukville, towns further away.
The result is a remarkable collection of photographs, beautifully displayed with an accompanying commentary. Presented in sepia they reminded me of the iconic works of Sebastio Selgado. Almost all the photos are of people and Tony has the skill of capturing his subjects in beautifully relaxed and natural settings. As with Selgado’s pictures, though all these are from Cambodia, they are universal: they represent mankind’s poorest and most destitute. That the photographs are beautiful does not distract from their haunting appeal: "we too are people who share this earth with you". Photographs of street children, garbage collectors, prostitutes, victims of the genocide, AIDS sufferers and drug addicts.
Tony says in the introduction that his purpose was not just to show the terrible damage people are suffering but also to emphasize the amazing spirit of resilience, courage, dignity and even triumph he discovered. Yet even these attributes cannot take away the fact that in sum these people are the expression of a world full of injustice.
Tony is to be congratulated on this wonderful book. Treat yourself! You will not be disappointed. Or urge your librarian to buy a copy.
A comment by Rae Julian, Council for International Development
All those who have worked, lived or travelled in Cambodia cannot help but be entranced by this book. It is the record of two years of Tony Maturin’s life when he accompanied his wife, Sandra Jones on a VSA assignment in Phnom Penh. Rather than just provide household support, Tony embarked on his own journey to explore the culture of the Khmer, with assistance from a wide range of Cambodian individuals and NGOs. The result is a comprehensively sepia-illustrated book that discusses a range of themes chosen to tell the stories of the people and their spirit; how they came out of over 30 years of war or conflict to turn their tragedy into survival and, for many, triumph.
I found that reading this book took me back to my years in Cambodia. It is profoundly moving and reinforces my memories of the strength and endurance of the Khmer people.