COVID-19 brings curtain down on a shadow puppet theatre in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, May 14 Cambodia’s shadow puppet custom goes again to the seventh century and has survived the collapse of empires, wars and Khmer Rouge reign of terror that left some 1.7 million folks useless.

In latest years, nevertheless, native curiosity in the artwork that was designated a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2005 has dwindled, with overseas vacationers and funding turning into its principal supporters.

Now, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt one theatre in Phnom Penh a new blow, bringing the curtain down on a troupe and its chief who has been performing in the capital for greater than 26 years.

Puppet grasp Mann Kosal is sifting by lots of of leather-based puppets that he and his colleagues made over time as employees dismantle the theatre round them.

“As a performer, we need to perform as a team. But once the coronavirus came, we could not do that any more,” he says.

The few individuals who would come to look at the performances in the 80-seat theatre have evaporated resulting from journey restrictions and his workers are largely at dwelling resulting from a ban on gatherings and likewise to keep away from the an infection.

“I would just dream of Friday and Saturdays (performance days) to come so we could perform. If there was no coronavirus, we could perform one, two or three times a week even with less audience – that would’ve made me happier,” he says.

Kosal turned enthralled by ‘Sbek Thom’ or “large cow hide” puppetry after he began working for the Department of Performing Arts.

He studied all features of the artwork from creating the puppets – which may measure 2 metres (6-1/2 ft) in top – out of a single cow cover, to dealing with the puppets, whose shadows are projected onto a giant white display, in addition to the songs and speech of the story.

The tales depicted in exhibits are based mostly on a Khmer model of the Ramayana, the Sanskrit epic of India.

“I sometimes let my student sing the song or speak and I perform holding the shadow puppets. We exchange and do different jobs,” he says.

Sovana Phum was one in every of 5 shadow puppet theatre troupes in the nation. All are actually going through comparable difficulties.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has taken management over the troupe, which is able to proceed to carry out below the identical identify, Sovana Phum Theatre Organization. Kosal has been appointed a technical advisor.

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