Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Preserving heritage

Cambodia is looking to add to its list of World Heritage recognised locations and cultural activities next year. It already has Angkor (1992) and Preah Vihear temple (2008) on the UNESCO World Heritage List, whilst Sbek Thom (2005), Khmer shadow puppet theatre, and the Royal Ballet of Cambodia or Apsara Dance (2003) are included on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Next up could be the temple complex of Banteay Chhmar, which has already been submitted, whilst a batch of five more items are also likely to get the nod for inclusion as well, if all goes well. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts are keen to promote the following to the two forms of listing, tangible and intangible:
Ayai - an artform that involves pitching their wits against each other through song
Chapei Dong Veng - a two-stringed long-necked guitar, played by veteran musicians such as Kong Nay
Sambor Prei Kuk - the 7th century capital city in Kompong Thom province
Hol Phamuong - a colourful traditional dress made from silk
Kbach Kun Boran Khmer - a traditional form of boxing.

Tangible heritage refers to built heritage, cultural landscapes and all man-made elements with cultural significance. Intangible heritage refers to the practices, representations, expressions, memories, attachments, as well as the knowledge and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals, recognise as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage, and can be manifested in the following areas: oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship.

On the subject of preservation, the rampaging 5-tonne elephant currently running around wild in Kompong Speu province by the name of Sambo, is not the elephant of the same name that has been giving people rides around Wat Phnom for the last few years. It's just a coincidence that they have the same name. The Kompong Speu Sambo has already killed three people in the past, including his owner last week and is running amok near Mon village in the province. It doesn't look like there will be a happy ending to this particular dilemma. The Wat Phnom Sambo, who was given a rest by the authorities during the recent Water Festival, may not be allowed back to carry on her regular duties if the local authorities have their way. I don't know the latest but traffic congestion was the main sticking point for the Phnom Penh authorities.

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