An Expanding Asian Kite Scene: Bringing Kites Back to Life in Cambodia

Authors: 
Ben Ruhe
Article type: 
Journal

The Khmer Rouge holocaust of the late l970s not only wiped out an estimated third of Cambodia’s population, but because it was aimed at the intelligencia—anyone wearing glasses, for example—— it obliterated much of the country’s culture. All but a handful of the royal dance company, which had performed worldwide, perished.

Just as these few survivors have reestablished classic dance in Cambodia, others in the country have worked to bring back other folk arts. Among them is Sim Sarak, director general of administration and finance in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Sim (his surname or last name) has focused, among other areas, on restoring kitemaking and kiteflying to Cambodia. The tradition goes back more than 2,000 years.

Starting in l994, he has organized kite festivals, written a book about kites and taken the beautiful kleng ek (or musical) Cambodian kite on the road to international kite celebrations in Dieppe, France, and Cervia, Italy, as well as Asian festivals in Hong Kong, Indonesia and elsewhere. His ministry is now furbishing a large new exhibition hall of folk crafts in the capital, Phnom Penh. The very first craft honored was kites. Large kleng ek and other style kites grace the walls and hang from the ceiling in a stunning installation—tribute to a Cambodian cultural tradition Sarak and disciples refused to let die.

Page Number: 
5