Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Kulen artisans keep traditional handicrafts alive

Phnom Kulen artisans keep traditional handicrafts alive

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Two women living in Phnom Kulen community make souvenirs from pandanus in Siem Reap province’s Svay Leu district. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Phnom Kulen artisans keep traditional handicrafts alive

Phnom Kulen is part of Kulen National Park, the site of historical significance as the birthplace of the Khmer empire, 40km away from Siem Reap town. Currently, Kulen has 10 villages populated mostly by farmers.

Some villagers, however, also engage in handicrafts in addition to farming. There are skilled craftsmen there who can make many kinds of high quality goods, such as handmade items like mats, round shallow winnowing baskets, bamboo straws and knives.

Finding a market for those products poses a big problem for artisans, unfortunately, which discourages people from continuing with the tradition of making those products.

In 2020, Kulen Crafts, part of the non-profit Archaeology and Development Foundation (ADF), was established with the aim of contributing to the preservation of traditional handicrafts and improving the livelihoods of the community through outreach.

According to Chhun Phirom, an employee of the ADF working directly on the Kulen Crafts project, they have contributed to the training of artisans in the area and helped to set fair market prices for artisans and improve the lives of communities.

“We only buy from Phnom Kulen, and our purpose is to improve their livelihoods and to help preserve the traditional handicrafts on this mountain.

“There is also a training course to transfer skills to the next generation. Therefore, we have chosen the ones who make the most beautiful products to teach other people in the village,” she said.

Regarding the market for community products, she said Kulen Crafts has more than 10 kinds that they produce, all of which are handmade with rare local materials from the forest, such as mats made of pandanus or screwpine and many others.

Although the project has been going for two years now and contributing to the artisans’ livelihoods in the Kulen community, Phirom said that sales still needed to improve quite a bit to really make an impact there.

“It has improved so little because they can make only two mats per month and sell them to use for 100,000 riel, so they can earn only 200,000 riel per month that way,” she said.

Phirom said that these mats can be woven by artisans according to the season, meaning that they can weave only in the wet season as the pandanus were very fragile.

“We can help them a little and it is better than nothing. It makes them happy to work. For example, we have a lot of women who make mats. At first we had only one person who made the round baskets. One older man could make them nicer than the others. So, we bought them from him. Now other people are trying harder to make them like he does as they can see him making good money,” she said.


  • Bareknuckle champion wants Kun Khmer fighter

    Dave Leduc, who is the current openweight Lethwei boxing champion in Myanmar, has announced that he will travel to Cambodia this year to challenge SEA Games gold medallist Prum Samnang any time that is convenient, after their planned match later this month in Slovakia was

  • Struggling Battambang artist dreams of staging full-scale gallery exhibition

    Leav Kimchhoth, a 55-year-old artist from Battambang province, is a familiar face to locals and tourists alike on the streets of the riverside in Phnom Penh. The one-armed painter and illustrator often hawks his work near the night market on weekends and public holidays. He

  • Five-year-old Hanuman dances his way into hearts of Cambodia

    A young talent from a new-established settlement has emerged, captivating the online world with his mesmerising performances of the traditional Cambodian monkey dance. Roeun Kakada is a five-year-old prodigy who has taken the social media sphere by storm with his exceptional dance skills and dedication

  • Fresh Covid warnings as Thai hospital fills

    A senior health official reminds the public to remain vigilant, as neighbouring countries experience an increase in Covid-19 cases, with the latest surge appearing to be a result of the Omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant. Or Vandine, secretary of state and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health,

  • New Law on Taxation comes into effect

    Cambodia has enacted the eagerly-awaited new Law on Taxation, which aims to improve the national tax regime’s compliance with present and future international standards and economic conditions; encourage accountability, effectiveness and transparency in the collection process; and promote investment in the Kingdom. King Norodom

  • PM warns of int’l election interference

    With the national election scheduled to take place in less than two months, Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned foreign nations and their diplomats not to interfere into Cambodia’s domestic affairs. He also hinted that their statements on court verdicts handed down to any