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Kingdom celebrates 15th year of UNESCO shadow theatre listing

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The shadow theatre (Sbek Thom) has a long history in Cambodia. Hong Menea

Kingdom celebrates 15th year of UNESCO shadow theatre listing

Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his congratulations on the 15th anniversary of the shadow theatre (Sbek Thom) being listed by UNESCO as an intangible work of cultural heritage.

“The shadow theatre [Sbek Thom] has a long history in the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is recognised and valued by the world as a human treasure and was recognised by UNESCO in 2005. It is a source of national pride,” he said in a Facebook post marking the UNESCO inscription on November 25.

The shadow theatre (Sbek Thom), also called Nang Sbek Thom, is a kind of shadow art that uses leather carvings to create a scene. The carvings represent deities and most are in the Brahmanism style.

Shadow theatre has been around since Brahmanism came to Khmer territory. The art is performed only in two or three ceremonies each year, including the Khmer New Year, the King’s birthday and coronation, or the worship of famous figures. It is rarely performed in public.

Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts spokesman Long Ponnasirivath told The Post on November 25 the ministry is not hosting a celebration this year because of Covid-19. But he said the ministry had posted a video on the shadow art on its Facebook page for people to share.

The video clip features 90 Sbek Thom skins used to perform the art. The skins were sponsored by Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk.

Ponnasirivath said the anniversary celebrates conservation work. Cultural properties listed by UNESCO do not only belong to Khmer people but are of value to humanity and the world.

“This work is a source of pride for our country. People must protect and enhance the tradition, and improve upon it to ensure its longevity,” he said.


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