While a new era in Cambodian arts has begun to take shape over the past two decades, traditional rituals and ceremonies have remained an everpresent part of the cultural landscape. As part of a series of events celebrating Cambodian ritual and theater, the opening ceremonies of Season of Cambodia will bring together an ensemble of Cambodian musicians to recreate the spectrum of sounds that are heard at various ceremonies. The opening of the festival marks Choul Chhnam Thmei, or Khmer New Year, perhaps the most beloved of Cambodian holidays. During Season of Cambodia’s Family Day at the Asia Society, audiences are invited to partake in celebrations in which games will be accompanied by rituals, music and performances. Traditional theater such as the Reamker, Cambodia’s interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana, was once performed every day in villages across Cambodia. Though once the height of popular entertainment, it is viewed today as a precious anachronism. Prior to being listed by UNESCO as one of Cambodia’s protected forms of intangible cultural heritage, Sbeik Thom, or Khmer shadow theater, was for decades after the Khmer Rouge safeguarded by a select few that included Venerable Pin Sem, the chief monk at Wat Bo in Siem Reap. Before letting his leather-work puppets out of his pagoda, the monk had Phloeun Prim, the Executive Director of Cambodia Living Arts, promise that the tradition of Sbeik Thom would be honored, regardless of where its puppeteers perform. As part of Season of Cambodia, the theater troupe from Wat Bo will perform with their puppets in New York City, continuing a centuries-old tradition.

 

Dance    Visual Arts    Ritual & Theater    Music    Film    Humanities