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About 120 performers entertained the crowds at the inaugural Bonn Phum festival last year
About 120 performers entertained the crowds at the inaugural Bonn Phum festival last year. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Festival gets back to its roots

The second annual Bonn Phum (village festiva) – in the lead-up to Khmer New Year – gives contemporary youth a taste of fading traditions

During Khmer New Year, Cambodian villages are traditionally alive with games, music and performances. Known as Bonn Phum, or village festivals, the celebrations mark the end of a season of hard work.

It’s a tradition a group of Phnom Penh young people are bringing into the modern age with their own annual Bonn Phum festival held free of charge over three days from April 3-5 at a pagoda on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

“Young people these days are losing touch with their culture,” said co-founder Rithy Lomorpich. “In the past, Cambodian people celebrated at each different time of the year, but slowly we are forgetting these traditions.

Young people play traditional games at last year’s inaugural Bonn Phum festival
Young people play traditional games at last year’s inaugural Bonn Phum festival. PHOTO SUPPLIED

“We created this festival because we want to provide an opportunity for young people to experience traditional games, cultural art performances and especially Cambodian food made in different provinces.”

Organised activities will include the offering of food, fruit, flowers and clothes to monks in the morning, traditional games all day and, in the afternoon running into the evening, musical and theatre performances and dancing.

Lomorpich and her friends organised their first Bonn Phum last year. It was a huge success, with big crowds and about 120 artists performing.

“We plan to have even more this year compared to last year,” she said. “More people and more food stalls.”

The festival’s target audience was young Cambodians, but foreigners are welcome too, she said. Full tour packages are available including free buses.

“This year we want to see the young people participate and join together to support and learn more about Khmer culture and art,” Lomorpich said. “And in the future we will have to have more interesting programs and in this way preserve Khmer culture.”

The Bonn Pum will be held at Wat Prek Thling (also called Wat Pum Sen) in Prek Kampus commune, Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, from April 3-5. Free buses leave from Olympic Stadium at 7am, 10am, 2pm and 4pm.

TRADITIONAL GAMES
* Bas Angkunh: The ‘seed throwing game’ involves two teams hurling Angkunh (brown seeds) at each other .
* Leak Kansaeng: Players sit in a circle. One player walks around the circle and drops a twisted scarf behind another. That player than chases the first, beating them with the scarf until they can find a space to sit down.
* Teang Prot: A tug-of-war between two opposing teams. The loser is the team that reaches the middle first.
* Bobor Kanha Thlek Toe: Similar to a Western carnival game, in ‘beautiful queen falls in the water’ contestants hurl a ball at a target. If they score a bullseye, a girl sitting above a tub of water gets dunked.

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