THE clear blue sky above Koh Kong was filled with vibrant fabric Thursday – a poignant celebration of a resurgent Cambodian tradition nearly lost to history just a few decades ago.
Colourful khleng ek kites soared high overhead Thursday as the Koh Kong International Kite Festival came to a close.
Participants came from across the Kingdom, as well as from countries as distant as Sweden and France.
The tradition, involving intricately decorated kites sent whistling through the sky – a sound caused by the ek, a type of kite that emits a whistling tone as it soars into the air – predates even the Angkor era in Cambodia, when people flew kites at the start of the rainy season to encourage rainfall.
The festival was an opportunity to share Cambodia’s traditions with the world, said the festival’s organiser, Ouk Lay, the deputy director of international cultural relations and Asean affairs at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
“We have the chance of showing our culture,” Ouk Lay said. “All the people in the world can learn about the culture.”
Reviving the tradition
But the tradition was nearly devastated during the turmoil under the Khmer Rouge regime, said Roeung Sareth, a khleng ek artisan.
For years after, the khleng ek tradition lay dormant until the early 1990s, when a handful of elderly Cambodians cautiously flew their kites in an open field.
The first official festival came in 1994; authorities have held festivals every year since 1999.
“When the kite flies in the sky, it shows the many colours and happiness of Cambodians,” Roeung Sareth said.