Puppetry in Cambodia

Formerly known as the Khmer Empire, the Kingdom of Cambodia has a prolific heritage of intangible arts. Sbaek in Khmer or the Cambodian puppet theatre utilizes shadow puppets and has been performed in Cambodia for thousands of years. Before the Khmer Rouge regime, the system virtually eradicated the art of puppet theatre, education, and many arts and cultural forms.


Shinsunako; “Rama riding Hanuman”   

There are three types of Cambodian shadow puppets:

Sbek Thom, is the large shadow puppet similar to the Thai nang yai. It is made from buffalo hide and usually painted. The performance features Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Indian epic, Ramayana. Sbek Thom is considered a sacred art form in Cambodia. 

Sbek Toch, on the other hand, is closely related to the Thai nang talung. It is smaller, with movable parts, and made from leather hide. 

A third type of shadow puppet is Sbek Por which  is made from colored leather hide.      

Shadow Puppetry is something that people in Cambodia care for. It represents the history of their country and reflects the rich culture of Cambodia. This is one of the main reasons why are theatre companies around Cambodia that still cater to this kind of puppetry. 

Sita shadow puppet (Photo from Teatrong Mulat collection)

References:

https://www.gocambodia.tours/ancient-art-cambodia-shadow-puppetry/#:~:text=Today%2C%20there%20are%20two%20types,that%20the%20audience%20can%20see.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_shadow_theatre

https://www.asiahighlights.com/cambodia/performing-arts.htm

https://www.ccc-cambodia.org/en/ngodb/ngo-information/3284

https://www.smiles-of-angkor.com/siem-reap-city/sbaek.html

https://culture360.asef.org/resources/sovannaphum-arts-association/#:~:text=Sovannaphum%20Arts%20Association%2C%20created%20in,shadow%20puppets%2C%20mask%20dances%2C%20circus

Photo:
Shinsunako; “Rama riding Hanuman”;Angkor Temples Tour, 2013, http://www.smilesofangkor.com/siem-reap/shadow-puppet.html. 10 Jan 2021.

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