Sovanna Phum, in Phnom Penh, is one of the venues keeping the traditional art of shadow puppets alive and well in Cambodia. As you can see in my portfolio and other posts, the artists at Sovanna Phum make their own small and large shadow puppets. In fact, Kosal, the director, is perhaps the leading master of this art in the country. I took all these photographs at a recent performance of small shadow puppets.
New shadow puppets in action for the first time at Sovanna Phum
I hardly took out my camera last month. I needed the break, and my other work takes priority. But a few days ago, I stopped by Sovanna Phum and learned they had a special event that evening–a ceremony and special performance to launch their new set of shadow puppets. The event was attended by many of the regular artists plus people from the community, a couple of donors or their representatives, and others who straggled in like myself.
Eating in a quiet spot backstage
I’m interested in the families of performers. This boy’s father and mother are traditional arts performers. He is studying to become a drummer and his younger sister is studying dance.
I’ve been living abroad for years, and now I naturally simplify my spoken English to accomodate whoever may be listening. I filter out complex grammatical structures and choose simple words. Sometimes when I want to say something too complicated to express in simplified language, I stop as if lacking the language. Or I switch to Japanese. The same thing happens in writing if I know the audience are not native English speakers. The difference is more pronounced in Cambodia. The language of Cambodia, Khmer, doesn’t have verb tenses. When speaking to shopkeepers and tuk-tuk drivers, they understand better if I keep all verbs in the present tense. This naturally spills out in more and more conversations in Cambodia.
On my last trip, I discovered it took a conscious effort to speak like a native English speaker. Rather, simplified English is becoming my default.
Now I have a word for what I do: globish (global English). Do you speak it?
This is just a photographic sketch I made one afternoon in Phnom Penh. I take photos like these as a way to observe and learn; and I enjoyed talking to the people as I photographed them. It was in February, just before Chinese New Year. I walked into Wat Lanka, a Buddhist temple, and saw several young men and one older man at work. I don’t think any of them do wood working as a profession, though I could be wrong. My impression was that they showed up and learned. Perhaps they are carving images of Buddha to earn merit, or dollars (the statues were being made to sell). Buddhism in Cambodia is very practical. Young men become monks for spiritual reasons and/or because they want a place to live, food to eat, and an education. Most are monks for a few years, and some continue for life. I didn’t know what motives these men had for their labor, but I admired the care they put into the task.