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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Open Letter to the Cambodiana

Open Letter to the Cambodiana


I happened to be invited to dine at the Cambodiana without knowing a cultural performance

was being given and I appreciated the effort to present the Cambodian culture to

customers during the "Cambodian culture" night at the Mekong Brasserie

on Nov. 7. However, I found it difficult to swallow a meal AND appreciate the performance

at the same time. I believe human beings cannot just focus four of their senses,

sight, hearing, tasting and smell, at the same time without risking to maybe lose

all of them. Has anyone ever attended a Tschaikovsky's "Swan Lake" performance

AND eaten at the same time? The Khmer Royal Court Dance was meant for a King's pleasure

or was part of ritual ceremonies to ask protection from the Gods. Nowadays, the Khmer

classical dance is slowly reviving and it takes years of painful efforts before reaching

the stage of perfection the artists at the Cambodiana have shown. But how many of

their customers really noticed it that night? Khmer Royal Court Dance is an art "par

excellence." Please let's help the artists to be artists rather than just be

entertainers where the only soft applause and encouragement came from a group of

Chinese businessmen and from some French soldiers. Let's help preserve the classical

and folk dances in a better way. Who can "see" between the chicken curry

and the pumpkin custard at the buffet that the courting scene between Preah Ream

and Neang Seda was an excerpt from the Reamker (the Khmer version of the Ramayana)?

That the Khene dance (a musical instrument made of bamboo) originated from Stung

Treng, where we can sense the influence of our Lao cousins? That the Coconut dance

was often performed during wedding ceremonies (where its music comes from) or in

the light of a full moon when the hard labour in the rice field is over and which

allows the young boys and girls in the countryside to flirt, to get to know each

other and maybe even get married? There must be another way to help preserve Khmer

culture than just offering it as a simple tourist product, a practice imported from

a nearby country.

Young Khmer artists are badly in need of support and a good patronage which would

allow them to be fully recognized as real artists. I suggest that the Cambodiana

put up a real performance and offer the artists a real stage where Khmer culture

can be shown at its very best, or grant the best students at the University of Fine

Arts a scholarship with the profits of a real performance. French scholars have helped

Cambodians to be proud of their cultural roots; please help preserve it with dignity.

- Darith Nhieim, (c/o SKIP Cambodia)



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