For Weavers, Khmer Heritage Looms Large

Nearly 200 people flocked to the first National Weaving Fest­ival, held in December at the Bas­sac Theater, which exhibited the various traditional forms of weaving in Cambodia, from the simple krama to complicated designs in fine silk to be worn for  important ceremonies.

Princess Norodom Bopha Devy, the minister of culture, said weaving is an art form Cam­bodian families have passed from generation to generation.

“The Ministry will promote Khmer weaving art to meet the basic national standard, improve human resource and strengthen international relations to make other countries recognize Khmer art,” Bopha Devy said.

Tol Lah, minister of education, youth and sport, said Cam­bo­dians are working hard to re­claim the heritage lost during decades of war.

Appreciating and supporting traditional arts would help Cam­bo­dia retain its identity in an increasingly globalized world, he said.

“It’s our contribution to the culture of the world,” Tol Lah said.

The exhibition opened with a dance performance where 12 dancers wore different styles of scarves and clothing created by Cambodian weavers. The dance represented weaving and other daily activities in Cam­bodian life.

A highlight of the dance was the appearance of seven women, each dressed in the ceremonial colors for each day of the week.

At the exhibition, guests could watch weavers spinning a light blue phamoul, a silk skirt worn in the evenings. Five provinces exhibited their wares: Kompong Cham, Takeo, Kandal, Kompong Speu, and Prey Veng.

The weavers showed a wide range of patterns and styles, from butterflies, flowers and dragonskin to traditional designs.

Keng Kimheng, 65, was standing at a table displaying a series of silk hols, or 3-meter skirt lengths in rich colors. She said her grandmother in Takeo taught her to weave when she was 12 and now, in her old age, it is what she enjoys most.

Chreay Ritiny, 23, from Kom­pong Speu, teaches weaving to 30 students. She and her husband were selling bright kramas and cotton skirts.

“This is a family career that I will continue for the rest of my life,” she said.

The silk industry is making a comeback in Kompong Cham, where more than 700 families are growing silk.

Chan Kim Chin, chair­­man of the pro­vince’s Koh Sotin district cultural center, said the silk business is growing because there is greater demand for different styles. But weavers can earn only $7 for a 3-meter piece of silk, and can produce only three in a month. That’s not enough to support themselves, she said.

One weaver who has become successful is Chum Ang, 42, who lives near Prek Leap. She began weaving at 13 and today supervises 200 looms. “I will do this forever,” she said.

 

 

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