Cambodian culture consists of a blend of influences that includes traditions from the Indian subcontinent, immigrants and indigenous tribes.
But the Khmer Rouge regime nearly decimated it by banning art performances and trainings and even killing performers.
For the last 14 years, the Cambodian government has organised a National Culture Day on March 3 to revive and commemorate the many cultural traditions that exist within the Kingdom.
This year, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MCFA) will mark the day with a festival from March 2-4 in Pailin, about 400 kilometres west of Phnom Penh.
According to the MCFA, National Culture Day is part of the government’s mission to “preserve the culture, promote the cultural legacies and develop all cultural activities – especially in places where indigenous people live – and also encourage the creation of new art forms”.
Pailin was once home to Burmese merchants known as “Kola”, who lived there for centuries but disappeared during the Khmer Rouge. However, their 87-year-old stupa – a traditional Buddhist temple – and traditional peacock dance remained.
The stupa was restored two years ago, and will be opened to the public this weekend.
“The National Culture day is organised to coincide with the inauguration of the stupa,” said Lem Bunheng, director of the Department of Culture and Fine Arts in Pailin. “It is the first time that my province is hosting, so I’m happy.”
Artists from Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin provinces will be present for the occasion to perform a variety of Cambodian arts.
The artists from Phnom Penh will show their Apsara dance, including a folk “drum dance”, “grasshopper dance”, “picking cardamom dance”, and “mortar and pestle dance”.
Battambang artists will perform a circus routine, while those from Banteay Meanchey will present a theatre production.
The Pailin artists will perform their “gem sifts” and “peacock” dances unique to the region. There will also be a concert with musicians playing the chapey dorng veng, a three-string long-necked guitar.
The National Culture Day festival will run from March 2-4 in Pailin town.