Reyum Institute Wins Award From Dutch Gov’t

Last June, Gerard Kramer, the Bangkok-based Dutch ambassador to Cambodia, Laos, Thai­land and Vietnam, toured the Rey­um Institute of Arts and Culture in Phnom Penh.

As he walked through the institute’s arts school, gallery and re­search office, he asked questions without explaining his presence, co-Director Ingrid Muan said. “We wondered what he really wanted,” she said.

A clue came in September, when Reyum was told it would re­ceive the 2003 Prince Claus Award. But it was only at an award ceremony in Phnom Penh last week that the institute learned why it had been selected as one of the 11 cultural organizations in the world to receive the Dutch prize.

Named after the deceased husband of Queen Beatrix, the Prince Claus awards are presented to artists, thinkers and organizations for exceptional achievement in cultural activities and development, Kramer said at a ceremony at the Hotel Cambo­di­ana on Thursday.

As he mentioned in his speech, Kramer had been asked to look into two organizations identified by the selection committee as possible award recipients in Southeast Asia. Both were in Cambodia.

Dutch officials on Thursday would not reveal the name of the other organization, which was not chosen as an award winner.

“The welcome [at Reyum] was a great surprise,” Kramer said. “I was received by dozens of children proudly presenting their paintings,” which were their own interpretations of an old Cam­bodian tale, he said.

“In a country where already so much has been lost due to the cruelties of the past,” the institute’s efforts to research, document and pass on Cambodia’s cultural identity to future generations is crucial, he said.

The Prince Claus Award was created in 1996 to support culture, especially in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Kramer said.

The prince, who had become inspector general for Dutch international aid in the 1980s, was very interested in cultural exchange and development, Kramer said.

For the 2003 awards, the focus was put on organizations involved in craft survival and innovation. This year’s first prize, which comes with a $122,120 grant, went to 89-year-old Wang Shi­xiang for his research into China’s popular culture and crafts.

The 10 other winners include the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa; Yovita Meta and her Biboki weavers in West Timor, Indonesia; and Carlinhos Brown, founder of the Pracatum Association in Brazil.

They each receive a $30,530 grant.

Co-directed by Muan and Ly Daravuth, the Reyum Institute conducts research, holds exhibitions and publishes books on Cambodian arts and architecture. More than 100 students, orphans or from poor families, attend its free arts school.


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