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Lakhon Khol gets Unesco Heritage status

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One performance of the Lakhon Khol. Pha Lina

Lakhon Khol gets Unesco Heritage status

Unesco on Wednesday inscribed the traditional Cambodian dance drama genre Lakhon Khol on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has announced.

Lakhon Khol’s successful Unesco registration was thanks to government attention, the efforts of leaders of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, support from actors, organisations and civilians in the fine arts and culture sectors and encouragement from the public.

“Tangible and intangible heritage of our country have helped Cambodia to become well-known on the international stage and they are important players on the world heritage stage."

“The decision to include Lakhon Khol in the world heritage list is a new pride for our nation,” the ministry said in its announcement.

Cambodia requested the registration of Lakhon Khol in the world heritage list on March 31 last year, and the committee approved the inscription during the 13th meeting on Wednesday.

The Cambodian delegation attending the meeting included Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona, undersecretary of state of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ket Sophann, government expert advisers Helen Jarvis and Teruo Jinnai and five Cambodian representatives at Unesco.

Lakhon Khol began in the early Angkor era. In accordance with bas-reliefs on Angkor temple walls, it is believed that the genre was first performed in the ninth century.

According to the book Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cambodia, Lakhon Khol was developed as an entirely male version of Khmer classical court dance.

The only story specifically performed by Lakhon Khol is the Reamke, the Khmer version of the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic poem.

Performances include storytelling accompanied by the traditional Pin Peat orchestra.

In the past, there were eight professional Lakhon Khol troupes but they were disbanded during the war and the only remaining troupe is that of Wat Svay Andet, 15km from Phnom Penh in Kandal province, where knowledge has been handed down from one generation to the next.

Two new troupes were formed since the war, in Kampong Thom and at the National Theater. Today, Lakhon Khol forms part of the curriculum of the Royal University of Fine Arts.

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