Last week during the Water Festival in Phnom Penh, people were gathering at the Tonle Sap river in droves. But at an exhibition in Wat Langka titled: “Tonle Sap: Source of Lives,” the room was empty.
“People are more interested in watching the races right now,” curator Sang Vasak lamented. “We have set up posters and distributed pamphlets, but not many people have come.”
The largest intended audience is students, who will arrive today from schools around Phnom Penh, Sang Vasak said. The exhibition is a collection of pictures and information about the Tonle Sap lake, with captions in Khmer, French and English.
Display topics range from Cambodian history and culture connected to the lake, to current concerns like water pollution and illegal fishing that threaten it. The exhibition was put together by volunteers from the French NGO Krousar Thmey, and is sponsored by Unesco, Air France and Danida, Sang Vasak said.
Thes Si Tha, 23, a Wat Langka monk, said the exhibition would be good for Cambodian children, who should become more aware of their country’s national resources. The monk said he planned to speak to the director of monks at Wat Langka about arranging for a group of monks to come to the exhibition.
“Everything that teaches us about nature is relevant to Buddhism and the theory of religion that we study,” he said.
While his family from Kompong Cham was taking a break from the Water Festival, Tin, 14, went to see the exhibition. It was fun to look at, he said, and very well done.
Sang Vasak said that he wished more people would choose to come to the exhibition, but he wasn’t optimistic about the prospect. “It’s so important for Cambodians to know about their culture, and about the Tonle Sap,” he said. “But unfortunately, most Cambodians only think about making money and feeding their families.”