As the Kingdom marks the first anniversary of the inscription of traditional Cambodian dance drama Lakhon Khol on Unesco’s cultural heritage list, the government is preparing to have 10 other forms of tangible and intangible heritage registered with the UN body.
To commemorate the inscription of Lakhon Khol, 280 artists gathered in Siem Reap on Thursday night for what a senior culture official said was the biggest ever performance of the traditional dance drama.
Muon Sopheap, the director of the Siem Reap provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, told The Post on Thursday that the event aimed to commemorate all the national heritage that had been listed on Unesco’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The event was jointly organised by the ministries of Culture and Fine Arts and Tourism at the Elephant Terrace.
“Siem Reap province is abundant with widely revered world heritage, so we chose it to hold the ceremony. A similar event was also held at Svay Andet pagoda in Kandal province,” he said.
He said artists and participants observed a minute’s silence to pay respects to the late Princess Norodom Buppha Devi before an Apsara dance was performed, with an orchestra playing traditional musical instruments including the chapei dong veng, a Cambodian guitar.
Princess Buppha Devi, who was famous for her skill and key roles behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, passed away on November 18 from an unspecified illness at a Thai hospital in Bangkok.
A symbol of the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, Princess Buppha Devi was bestowed the title “Number One Dancer” and “Living Human Heritage of Cambodia” in 2013.
A large-scale Lakhon Khol dance drama based on the Khmer Ramayana was then performed by 280 artists to close the event.
“It is called a night of memory. It means that our Khmer heritage are recognised and inscribed in Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“We commemorate the event again so that the public and younger generations will remember such heritages as the Cambodian Royal Ballet, Apsara dance, chapei Dong Veng and Lakhon Khol,” he said.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said the inscription had significantly boosted the Kingdom’s image on the international stage. It called on people to take part in preserving, protecting and upholding the value of the cultural heritage of humanity.
It said Cambodia had already registered three tangible cultural heritages with Unesco – Angkor, Preah Vihear and Temple zone of Sambor Prei Kuk.
The UN body has also listed five Cambodian intangible cultural heritages including the Royal Ballet, Sbek Thom leather shadow puppets, Khmer tug-of-war, Champei Dong Veng and Lakhon Khol Wat Svay Andet.
Prak Sonnara, the director-general of the culture ministry’s Heritage Department, said Cambodia is hoping to have three tangible cultural heritages and seven intangible cultural heritage listed.
The former includes Khmer noodles, ancient Cambodian martial art l’bokator and silk-weaving. The latter are Kulen Mountain resort, Beng Mealea Temple, Banteay Chhmar Temple, Preah Khan Temple Kampong Svay, Nokor Borei Phnom Da, Banteay Prey Nokor, and Oudong Mountain resort.
“All of them are in our preparatory lists. As far as I know, the government is also considering having other heritages listed, including ambok [flattened rice] and long dragon boats”
Sovannara said Cambodia is rich in cultural heritages, with tangibles including thousands of temples, pagodas, ancient houses, and historical sites. Hundreds of ancient Khmer temples are also located in neighbouring countries.