The Phnom Penh municipal government will be launching a nationwide competition to select sculptors for statues of famous Cambodians destined to adorn Wat Phnom, Governor Kep Chuktema said Wednesday.
The governor said he is hoping in particular for a statue of Yeay Penh, the woman who, according to legend, founded the capital after finding three statues hidden inside a tree on the site where the city now stands.
“I have to look for perfect and excellent statues of Yeay Penh,” Kep Chuktema said. “We also need to get statues of other well-known people to be installed at public parks because I acknowledge that people have paid little attention to [modern] statues,” Kep Chuktema told more than 150 sculpture professors and students of the Association of Cambodian Artist Friends at Wat Phnom.
He also plans to commission statues of animals such as the andeuk luong, or “royal turtle,” which is now considered an element of national heritage. “I will encourage Cambodian people to love and care for the statues,” Kep Chuktema said.
The sculpture exhibit at Wat Phnom may help persuade future tourists to spend half a day to a full day visiting the site where they have previously only spent an hour, he said.
Uth Roeun, president of the Association of Cambodian Artist Friends, said the competition and exhibit at Wat Phnom may make young Cambodians more interested in the arts and give artists the opportunity to learn from the country’s established sculptors.
Sar Khunvisal, a 15-year-old student at Tuol Tumpoung high school, said he hopes his artwork will help promote Cambodia.
“I want to become a popular painter and also to be a useful man for my family and country,” he said.
Chhim Sarath, a 23-year-old artist, said the statues may showcase today’s art in Cambodia. “Our country does not only have the Angkor temples. There are many human resources,” he said.