Monday, March 19, 2012

Angkor Wat

Angkor (Khmer: អង្គរ) is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara (नगर), meaning "city". The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a "universal monarch" and "god-king", until 1351, when Angkor first fell under Ayutthayan suzainry, to 1431, when Ayutthaya put down a rebellion and sacked the Khmer capital, causing its population to migrate south to Longvek.

The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland to the north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap (13°24′N, 103°51′E), in Siem Reap Province, and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitor numbers approach two million annually.

In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an elaborate system of infrastructure connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) to the well-known temples at its core. The closest rival to Angkor, the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, was between 100 and 150 square kilometres (39 and 58 sq mi) in total size. Although its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported up to one million people.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

King Jayavarman VII of Cambodia

Jayavarman VII (Khmer: ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៧, 1125–1200) was a king (reigned c.1181-1200) of the Khmer Empire in present day Siem Reap, Cambodia. He was the son of King Dharanindravarman II (r. 1150-1160) and Queen Sri Jayarajacudamani. He married Jayarajadevi and then, after her death, married her sister Indradevi. The two women are commonly thought to have been a great inspiration to him, particularly in his unusual devotion to Buddhism, as only one prior Khmer king was a Buddhist.

Cambodia-Asia Economic Forum kicks off

PHNOM PENH: The 8th Asia Economic Forum kicked off here on Saturday, focusing on reviewing the ASEAN achievements in the past 45 years and looking at opportunities and challenges toward the realization of an ASEAN community by 2015.
The 2-day forum has been attending by some 300 economists, academics, researchers, and policy makers from Asian countries, Xinhua reported.
Haruhisa Handa, advisor to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and chairman of Asia Economic Forum, said the forum, under the theme " ASEAN in the Evolving Regional Architecture: Opportunities, Challenges and Future Direction", aimed at examining how ASEAN has been able to develop and transform itself in the past 45 years of its existence.
It would also look at ways to enhance ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture and identify ASEAN’s future priorities and challenges toward the realization of an ASEAN community by 2015, he said.
Moreover, the forum would deliberate on how ASEAN can strategically best engage its dialogue partners in the coming years, and at the same time to play a positive role in its relations with the major powers in the region.
Speaking at the opening of the forum, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance, said the ASEAN has made tremendous progress in all areas of cooperation in the last forty-five years, but challenges are still ahead toward a community.
"Since its inception in 1967, the ASEAN has not only accelerated the pace of diplomatic prominence, the rise of its profile internationally, but has also had a great impact on major power relations in the region and the wider world," he said. "The bloc has achieved many goals, but with those successes, it does not mean there are no challenges."
He said ASEAN needed to strengthen its participatory capacity in global solution cooperation reflecting the contribution of ASEAN to global affairs, in which prestige and role of ASEAN will be further enhanced at international arena.
Those global affairs include economic crisis, climate change, natural disaster management, prevention and combat of contagious disease as well as fighting against crime and cross border terrorism, he said.
In addition, the minister said, ASEAN has to speed up the process of dividing development gap among ASEAN member countries, which is prerequisite requirement to ensure regional competitiveness and rationalization of regional integration and implementation of action plan of ASEAN integration initiatives.
"ASEAN is an important player in the region among other successful organizations in the world. I strongly believe that ASEAN community will be realized in next two years," he said.
The forum was founded in 2004 by a Japanese Haruhisa Handa, advisor to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and president of International Foundation for Arts and Culture,and has been held every year in Cambodia, organized by the University of Cambodia and sponsored by the International Foundation for Arts and Culture.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Successful International Auction Raises Hopes for Cambodia's Artists

Cambodia has held its first international art auction, with the backing of the well-known art house, Christie’s. Though Khmer antiquities are highly sought-after on the global stage, the country’s modern art remains relatively unknown.

Madeleine de Langalerie has watched the country’s art scene slowly grow over the last decade and a half. When the French journalist first moved there about 15 years ago, she saw talent in the work of young artists, but originality was more difficult to find.

“I think at the very beginning they try to copy, because it is the only thing to do," Langalerie said. "But with the television, with the influence of the outside, of Thai, of Vietnamese, of Japan, mainly Japanese, I think they start to see other things.”

These days, new boutique galleries have sprung up throughout the city, showing homegrown work by local talent. A handful of Cambodian artists are already gaining notice abroad.

But what many young artists need is an extra push for international buyers to take notice.

That was the idea behind staging an international art auction here in Phnom Penh. On March 11, an auctioneer from Christie’s presided over the country’s first high-level art auction. Proceeds from the charity auction will be donated to a local arts group.

But de Langalerie says the real value will be the exposure for the country’s lesser known artists and the local galleries that support them.

“I think this push should be in help to try and put Phnom Penh as a good place for artists," she said. "If you think about artists, maybe you should come and see galleries in Phnom Penh.”

Artists like painter Peap Tarr stand to benefit. The Cambodian-New Zealander has two collaborative works for sale, including an intricately detailed acrylic-on-canvas piece measuring more than four square meters.

Tarr started out as a graffiti artist in in New Zealand, where he grew up. But he gradually began to fuse styles and elements from his Cambodian ancestry into his work.

“There is a uniqueness that comes out of Cambodia. There is a long heritage," Tarr explained. "Over a 1,000 year heritage here of art and culture. Hopefully people will learn that. In some ways I think it gains more respect for the Khmer culture. And also I think it gives back more pride to the Khmer people. Culture and art, it does in some way give culture and dignity back to a people.”

On this afternoon, the busy hotel ballroom is almost full, but most are onlookers watching as a handful of buyers bid on the artwork. At the front of the room, auctioneer Lionel Gosset playfully encourages the buyers to inflate their bids.

The crowd applauds as the most sought after piece, a large morning glory plant sculpted in rattan wood, sells for $9,000.

By the end of the afternoon, buyers have snapped up about 40 works of art, at a cost of $40,000 in all. Gosset says, it is a promising sign for the Cambodian art scene.

“I think the room was crowded. It's a good signal for Cambodia. That means that Khmer are very interested by art," Gosset said. "And the results are good. It's a good result.”

For painter Lisa Mam, it was the first time she has sold her work at auction. She says she wants to show that her country’s artists are able to fuse their well-known traditional art with a new vitality.

“Cambodian art would be something really fresh," Mam declared. "Just like what I’m doing right now is fresh and new. We're trying to take the art of the ancient time and also the modern society to come together and create something new.”

For now, Mam wants to use the exposure from the auction as a springboard for her career. And she hopes her work will play a role in growing Cambodia’s modern art scene.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Introducing Cambodia

There’s a magic about Cambodia that casts a spell on many who visit this charming yet confounding kingdom. Ascend to the realm of the gods at the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat, a spectacular fusion of symbolism, symmetry and spirituality. Descend into the hell of Tuol Sleng and come face to face with the Khmer Rouge and its killing machine. Welcome to the conundrum that is Cambodia: a country with a history both inspiring and depressing, an intoxicating place where the future is waiting to be shaped.