The process of registering both art forms with Unesco, seen as crucial to preserving them, could take up to one year.
Cambodia's most celebrated chapei player, Kong Nai, performs in this file photograph.
THE Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts plans to submit applications to register chapei, a form of sung storytelling, as well as khol, a type of theatrical performance, under Unesco's Intangible Heritage of Humanity program, Meas Sarun, the ministry's general director of technique of culture, told the Post Monday.
Meas Sarun said he did not know when the applications would be completed. Unesco Country Director Teruo Jinnai said the process of
approving the applications once they are submitted would likely take about one year.
The applications must include a detailed historical and artistic background of each art form as well as a DVD recording of a performance. Teruo Jinnai said his office would likely assist in revising and polishing both applications before they are sent to Unesco headquarters, where experts will evaluate them and then submit them to a vote by member states.
Proeung Chheang, the vice rector of the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, said the registration of chapei and khol would enhance Cambodia's "glory and reputation" as well as encourage ordinary Cambodians to better appreciate the two forms of performance art.
He said he expected that "Cambodian people will learn these skills generation by generation" once they are registered.
In addition, he said, the Unesco registration would ensure that Cambodia receives aid from the international community as it struggles to protect and preserve both traditions.
Teruo Jinnai said preservation was particularly important with regard to chapei.
"We really have to be very careful because [chapei] is a one-man show, and many of the performers are very old," he said.
Cambodia currently has two World Heritage sites and two cultural entities registered with Unesco. Angkor Wat was registered as a World Heritage site in 1992, as was Preah Vihear temple last July. Both the Royal Ballet and sbeik thom, a form of shadow puppetry, were registered as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, in 2003 and 2005, respectively. The name of that designation was shortened to Intangible Heritage of Humanity last year, Teruo Jinnai said.