Siem Reap in Cambodia
Sovannaphum performances’ content is focused mainly on timely issues their country faces such as (1) an Awareness campaign on avian influenza in 120 communes in Cambodia through living art performances, (2) an Awareness campaign on fishery issues in the Stung Treng province through shadow puppets performances, (3) Shadow Puppet Performances on Drug Awareness and HIV Vulnerability Messages for Marginalized Youth, (4) Targeted Assistance for Education of Poor Girls and Children in Ethnic Minority Areas, (5) Environmental Health awareness campaign, (6) Improving the cultural education level of children in slum areas in Phnom Penh, (7) Peace and Disarmament Shadow Puppet Project, (8) Health and social issues, and a lot more. Truly the Sovannaphum Art Association exists to preserve the culture and mold new artists and raise awareness of our social welfare using the art form.
Shadow Puppets are meticulously made. As they take the art form religiously, making a shadow puppet is sacred because they consider these puppet makers holy, and the process should be done purely. It also applies to what the carvers are supposed to wear, which is white. Drinking alcohol is restricted, and he/she should be living a sinless life. Materials used should also be pure. They pick cow leather that died only from a natural cause. When the carving is done, they will dye it using Kandaol Tree Bark. The last process would be attaching thin bamboo pipes at both ends so puppeteers can hold them.
Muong, Vandy; “The master re-emerges from shadows.”
Sovannaphum not only caters to classic shadow puppetry. They also mix this classic art form with contemporary dances and combine traditional music and popular music. Their theatre performances also include drums, large and small shadow puppets, mask dances, and circus. They also have a mobile stage in a truck with a lighting system. Whenever they are asked to perform in different areas, especially when parts of Cambodia experience calamity or natural disasters. They respond to these events by entertaining the people in the area. They also offer private and commercial events and provide private art classes to sustain the theatre and the art form.
Shinsunako; Activities held in Sovannaphum Art Association
Apsara Dance and Shadow Puppet are some of their notable performances. The characters are inspired by the Khmer Empire combined with traditional Cambodian arts. It shows the local culture of their country and the unique execution of the history of Cambodia. The spectacle is also present in the performance by intensifying the lighting and realistic sound effects.
The most recent project of the Sovannaphum Art Association was Big Skin Shade or “Sokkjammoung.” Big Skin Shade was performed in celebration of Unesco Cultural Heritage held last November 25, 2020. Big Skin Shade’s full-length performance is uploaded on the official Facebook Page of Sovanna Phum Arts Association.
Unfortunately, after 26 years of performing, Sovannaphum Art Association waved its goodbye last November 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for the association to sustain its operations and left them no choice but to close down. Despite the shutdown, the Sovannaphum Art Association official Facebook Page actively releases some clips and pictures of their previous shows.
Shinsunako; “Rama riding Hanuman”;Angkor Temples Tour, 2013, http://www.smilesofangkor.com/siem-reap/shadow-puppet.html. 10 Jan 2021.