The exhibition inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and attended by Queen Norodom Monineath on Tuesday was designed not only to commemorate the first Asean-India Summit held earlier this week, but also to give Cambodia an idea of what the future Siem Reap textile museum will be.
“Splendors of Indian Textiles,” held at the National Culture Center, consists of a collection of India’s finest weaving—124 pieces produced during the last 100 years.
The exhibit is meant as a preview of the Siem Reap museum that will be established through a
$1 million grant from the Indian government, said Suryakanthi Tripathi, director general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
This museum will be one of the first projects launched as part of the Mekong/Ganges rivers agreement, she said. This document was signed in 2000 by countries that face river development issues—Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in the Mekong River basin, and India on the Ganges. The agreement identifies cooperation sectors such as culture, education and tourism, Tripathi said.
The museum will include three sections—an exhibition of textiles from the six countries, training with the assistance of Indian master weavers, and fashion design with the support of the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, she said.
The Indian and Cambodian governments are discussing land for the building, and the project could start within months, Tripathi said.
Nearly all the pieces on exhibition won their makers the President’s Award, said Binod Bihari Meher, a master weaver from the Crafts Museum in New Delhi, which is part of the Indian Ministry of Textiles. Each year, master weavers throughout India submit about 1,000 pieces out of which judges select the winners based on technique, design and artistry, he said.
Pieces on display in Phnom Penh were produced through a number of techniques—brocades made of silver- and gold-plated thread, fabric that mixes embroidery and weaving. The sari that earned Meher the President’s Award in 1990 combines silk and cotton. And yet all pieces in this exhibition were made for clothing and other practical purposes—not as decorative objects.
Cambodian silk weavers have come to discuss trade with the two Indian masters, who have set up looms at the exhibition. Those exchanges and the training center planned for Siem Reap can only benefit Cambodia, said Princess Norodom Marie Ranariddh, whose foundation Sobbhana helps women weavers develop their skills and create quality products.
The exhibition is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and will run until Sunday.