Friday, November 16, 2007

Artisans Angkor: Keeping Khmer Arts Alive

After we had our welcome iced tea, ate our late lunch over at the villa’s adjoining resto, and settled in our room, I enjoined my friends to explore the place for a bit, say go to Psar Chaa (old market) and buy something or whatever. It was just around three o’ clock in the afternoon and it would be a total letdown to waste away the rest of the day by sleeping and resting inside the room.

Visiting Artisans Angkor was part of our itinerary, but not on the first day. I had the address with me but I didn’t know that it was just a few steps away from the place we were staying. I mean literally, it was just a few steps away!

artisan siganage

Signage going to Artisans Angkor which just a few walks away from the Golden Temple Villa.

Artisans Angkor is actually an on-site workshop facility that offers young artistans both the training to hone their skills and the job they need to make a living. Most of these young artisans come from the rural and poor areas in Siem Reap Province. The facility is located in a very conducive environment giving the artisans stable working conditions and providing them with a vocation so that they can express their talents and continue to develop their skills while earning money.


Artisan finishes the detail of a bas relief of a Bayon face made of sandstone.

I’ve always been amazed by Cambodia. I see it as a country that is rich with tradition and culture. Its popularity among foreign visitors goes beyond exploring the Angkor Wat and its surrounding magnificent temples. More than anything else, it is the brilliant workmanship of the Khmer that attracts me to discover this place more. Most especially their artwork that is both exquisite and distinctive among any other rich-culture country in SE Asia.


An apprentice starts chiseling the head of Pranhaparamita. He uses a finished work (right side of the photo) to guide him with his work.

When we got to the facility, we met a young apprentice who was working on a piece of sandstone. He was happy and amazed to know that we come from the Philippines and offered to tour us around. He maybe noticed that we didn’t have a tour guide so he was kind enough to explain to us the tedious and meticulous process of carving images on a sandstone. He was a bit staggering with his English but we honestly appreciate the effort.


An apprentice works on the carving of the sandstone. He is the same guy who was kind enough to tour us around while explaining the process of finishing a work of art.


A semi finished engraving on the sandstone.

He led us to the next room wherein a group of young girls were busy painting interesting images on a silk screen. Our 'unofficial tour guide' explained to us the nitty-gritty details of finishing single product. I would have tried communicating with one of the girls but he said that they are “deaf and dumb”. I nearly stumbled from where I stood as I heard those words. Definitely, these people are not dumb. Of course, what he meant was, “deaf and mute”. We forgave him for saying the word. :-)


Deaf and mute painters on a workshop. Most of the workers here are ladies.

It is interesting to know that at least 5% of the craftsmen in Artisans Angkor are physically handicapped people wherein they are provided a working environment that minimizes the focus on physical restrictions and a way for them to prove and develop their vocational competencies.


Deaf and mute artisan meticulously paints on the silk screen.

After the tour, we visited the main boutique that sells all the artisans’ works. The artwork being sold are of great quality so obviously, they are high-priced. A portion of the money goes to the artisan who made them. The company follows a strict quality standard procedure from the selection of materials down to the production stage. When the items are completed, they receive the Artisans d'Angkor quality label and sold in specialty shops.



I wanted to take home of of these but there's just no way I could afford this.

They have shops in Angkor Café (in front of the Angkor Wat) and duty-free boutiques in Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, and Hong Kong Airport. They will be opening a new shop in Changi Airport in Singapore (I saw an advertisement on it).

I really wanted to splurge some money on one of these crafts but I just don't know how they will fit into my backpack also, considering we're just there on our first day.


kyels said...

It's true that Cambodia is so rich with culture and tradition. I'm typically amazed by the handmade arts and the temples. So ancient yet beautiful.


Ferdz said...

I think we weren't able to visit the place, kasi parang laging sarado pag nadadaanan namin. I also noticed those signages in that street. Bago lang din yun since before they didn't have that. Nice set to document their artistry.

Sidney said...

Superb! Great artisans at work.
You documented it well. In fact I should write this down in case I have the opportunity to go there.

haggis basher said...

Great set of photo's. I'll have to look out for the new shop in Changi.

lies said...

They really do make some gorgeous stuff. And the colours are amazing.

I think Cambodia is the part of your trip I'm most jealous of. ;o)

pieterbie said...

Hey, great, those last two look a bit like the two I have here in my living room. Superb!
Sounds to me as if you really had a good time!

Citizen of the World said...

My gosh. What artistry. I envy you, Rayts.

my gulch said...

yea, and preservation of their artistry is a way to keep their culture and traditions alive.

ah ganun ba. siguro nga kase imposibleng ma-miss n'yo ito. nadaanan din namin yung Angkor Museum na nakatakdang magbukas this November. ang galing, laging may bagong hain sa mga foreign visitors ang mga Khmer.

you should. i am amazed just by watching them at work. they've gotten used to the people coming in and out of the facility so it's easy to photograph them while at work.

oh yea, you seem to be in Singapore all the time.

hehe. But I am jealous about your trips in Turkey and Cuba as well.

that is nice to hear. we should enjoy things while we are at it. more than the photos, I take home the experience.

punta ka na kase. pahiramin kita ng itinerary at budgetary requirement namin, hehe. kayang-kaya mo 'to. file ng leave sa office nyo ng 2 weeks.


Two weeks?! Kaloka. Jobless na ako paguwi ko, aha ha ha! Pero cge, i will ask for the itinerary. Sobrang ganda at saya talaga.

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