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Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia

by Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Studying the art of puppet making
Studying the art of puppet making

Dear friends and supporters of Kampot Traditional Music School,

 

We are very happy to share with you our latest news. Finally after over 40 years since it's disappearance in Kampot Province, we have begun the revival of Lakoun Sabaik Toch.

 

What is Lakoun Sabaik Toch and why did it Disappear?

 

Lakoun Sabaik Toch is the ancient Cambodian art of shadow puppets. It is thought that it's origins are as old as a thousand years and that it was practised during the reign of the Kings of Angkor, in Siem Reap in North Western Cambodia.

Beautifully ornate characters are carved and cut out of specially prepared and cured cow leather. Propped on thin bamboo sticks to aid movement, they are played behind a lighted screen which creates eery shadows, to the interpretation of voices and Pin Peat music. There are two kinds of Lakoun Sabaik; the big one "Thom" and the small one "Toch", this doesn't mean the size of the puppets, but that the big one portrays only sacred and epic stories from the Hindu Ramayana (Reamker in Cambodian) and Buddhist tales and so is considered sacred and therefore in Cambodian language "Big". Cambodia was greatly influenced by Indian culture and Hindu religion, before converting to Theravada Buddhism at the time it is thought that Ashoka brought Buddhism to Southeast Asia. Today this wonderful mix of different cultural influences can still be found.

The "Small" Lakoun Sabaik puppet theatre consists of a mix of influences from the Ramayana (Reamker), the Apsara (celestial dancer found in carvings at Angkor) and comic, tragic and grotesque characters and animals depicting daily life. The "Small" shadow puppet theatre is for the people, telling stories about history, educative and moral tales and related to their lives. It is a much loved art.

First came civil war in Cambodia between 1970-75 when King Sihanouk was deposed and General Lon Nol took power and when the United States carpet bombed Cambodia to flush out Viet Cong fighters supposedly hiding on Cambodian soil. Then destabilized beyond repair, Cambodia with 1 million refugees in the capital Phnom Penh, cut off from food, supplies, the airport and roads closed, succumbed to the onslaught of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot.

The Khmer Rouge forced the entire population out of towns and cities and created a terrible "New Society" known as the "Year Zero". It is thought that between 2 to 3 million Cambodian people perished between 1975-79, a third of the population. Intellectuals, teachers, engineers, doctors, economists, artists, educated people, former civil servants, former police, soldiers, Buddhist monks, Muslim Chham and all these people's families were executed. It is estimated that 90% of Cambodian artists, both traditional and contemporary, died. In Kampot, the art of Pin Peat music died out, Mohori music was very basic and Lakoun Sabaik (Shadow puppetry) had disappeared altogether.

Imagine therefore what it must have been like in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge regime ended- in each Province, when there were no more teachers, doctors, artisans and artists. Yet Cambodia was not allowed to enjoy peace and reconstruction. The Khmer Rouge hid in the long range of mountains stretching all the way down the country and conducted guerilla warfare, inflicting fear and suffering on the populations living in the countryside. Ironically, the Khmer Rouge enjoyed a seat at the United Nations under the name "Democratic Kampuchea Party", as the official representative of Cambodia, in international opposition to the Vietnamese backed Cambodian government. A trade and aid embargo was imposed on Cambodia and the suffering of ordinary Cambodian people seemed endless. 

 

Reviving Lakoun Sabaik Toch in Kampot

 

Our school was built in the Southwestern Province of Kampot 21 years ago, during the civil war and indeed we faced many difficulties due to shelling, shooting and unrest. Gradually we developed from teaching traditional Pin Peat music, to Mohori and Plein Ka music, from folk dance to classical Cambodian ballet, Trott, Chhayam and then Yike theatre, music and dance. Our residential children graduated and more came in and then we expanded our program to include children from the local community, until today - when we teach 400 local Cambodian children traditional Cambodian performing arts, 10 blind children Mohori music and 20 scholarship children Pin Peat and Mohori/Plein Ka music.

All these years as we have developed, we have had the dream of creating our own traditional shadow puppet troupe - Sabaik Lakoun Toch and bring once more back to Kampot, this fantastic art form.

We finally received official sponsorship and we have just finished our puppet making course with the puppet master from Sovannah Phum on Phnom Penh. We shared our workshop with other local state schools and we have taken the first major step towards our goal. Now our students and teachers know how to cure leather, treat it, cut it, draw puppets, cut them out, ornament them and make them move. In so doing we have brought back to our children and to future generations the technique of skilled artisanship. 

In performing Lakoun Sabaik Toch, we are able to create our own story lines and portray real educative themes, such as the prevention of AIDS, the importance of education in rural areas, where children, especially girls are often pulled out of school to work and marry early, before finishing their education.

Yet without your help and support, we could never have developed as much as we have done, because before any new project is undertaken, we must first support our children and staff.

We would like to thank you all for your belief in our work, for your unstinting and generous support and for making it possible for us to continue helping so many children and conserving the precious cultural heritage of Cambodia.

Thank You! 

The puppet master giving a lesson
The puppet master giving a lesson
An ornamented puppet
An ornamented puppet
Two buffaloes, a butterfly and a monkey!
Two buffaloes, a butterfly and a monkey!
The end of the course!
The end of the course!

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Dance practice Pheap and friends
Dance practice Pheap and friends

Dear friends of Kampot Traditional Music School,

Thank you so much for your recent support, especially those of you who give regularly each month and those who participated in our special fundraising day on May 13th!

As you all know our Outreach program has several programs, not only for our 400 disadvantaged children from Kampot town and rural areas, but also our 10 blind Mohori music students and our 20 scholarship students from very poor and vulnerable rural backgrounds.

In this month's report, we would like to especially remember one of our scholarship students, Pheap. First she came to our school on our free arts training program for children from rural areas including Chumkriel and TrayKoh. Our school coordinated with the local head monk of the Pagoda school and local primary state school director. Pheap came as a little girl around the year 2000, small and quiet, but soon she shone at Pin Peat music and revealed a great talent and determination. It then came to light that she had significant family problems with an abusive and alcoholic father and was extremely poor. It was decided by her family and our school that Pheap should come to live at our school as a scholarship student under our protection.

Not only did Pheap excel at music, she also attained top grades in her academic studies, going on to gain her high school Baccalaureate and win a place at the Angkor Khemara University of Kampot. Her difficult family status and her talent earned her a scholarship at university. She graduated in 2012. Today she is an accountant at a local school, she is married and has a baby son. Pheap often drops by our school to say hello to her former teachers, because we are a part of her family. Pheap (which is not her full name), kindly gave permission for us to write about her in this month's report.

Invitation by Ministry of Culture to perform for ASEAN Conference

Our school was invited to select one of our most talented students from our Mohori music program for blind children, to perform participate in the ASEAN Conference to be held in Thailand in July/August of this year. Our student who is now an adolescent will be accompanied by our Pin Peat teacher and a carer. Together with our Pin Peat teacher he will perform 5 Mahori songs for the conference and then participate in workshops. The ASEAN Conference "Art for All" is on the occasion of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindihorn's 60th birthday and is being held to promote the important cultural imput by disabled artists in Southeast Asia. We all feel so excited and honoured by this invitation and the possibility to promote Cambodian traditional music abroad! We promise to post photos after the event!!

Please do keep on supporting us. Your help is truly precious and provides an important part of our needs, helping us to reach out to so many children in Kampot!

From all of us at the Kampot Traditional Music School - Thank You!

Pheap at school
Pheap at school

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Performance of outreach & resident Yike students
Performance of outreach & resident Yike students

 

 

News from Kampot

 

I recently returned from a trip to our school in Kampot, Cambodia to be with our staff and children and to see how our programs are progessing.

You have all been helping sponsor over 400 primary and secondary school children mainly from the Di Pok state school, but also from other local state schools, who all come to study traditional Cambodian music, dance and theatre at our school. Many are very poor and come from quite degraded and difficult backgrounds. The tuition of the arts in this form gives these children not only an opportunity to learn about their heritage, but it also provides them with an objective, keeping them away from street-life, glue sniffing and youth gangs.

After more than a year each sector from Pin Peat music and Mahori music ensembles to folk dance and Yike have begun performing in special public concerts in order to show their achievements and gain a certain professionality in stage skills. When they perform they are very proud of themselves! The interest in this program is such that now two new groups of state school students want to join our program.

 

What we've been doing Recently

In a local competition our school represented the different aspects of traditional Cambodian culture, from the different music forms, from the Yike to classical dance. Linking these different themes was a group of high school students on our training program from Di Pok school. In a form of narrative theatre they took the audience through different stages of the peformances. In the storyline they appear as high school students attracted by drugs and rave culture, but then they meet an old wise man who instructs them on the beauty and harmony of their ancient cultural heritage. The performance witnesses the transformation of this group of students from intolerance to tolerance from impatience to patience and from hate to peace and open-mindedness. The students were excellent in their performance.

 

Scholarship Students

Both our Mahori music and Pin Peat music teachers in their spare time formed two different ensembles with rural children, not connected to the free arts training program, ie not part of the state school and KCDI program. These very poor students were drawn to study the different musics from their own individual interest and passion for Cambodian music. The Mahori ensemble is with slightly older adolescent students, while the Pin Peat ensemble is with younger mostly pre-adolscent students. The talent of these different children is such that in a short space of time they have learned over 30 different Pin Peat pieces!

The younger Pin Peat students come from a rural area outside the town and towards the cement factory. They are not only very poor, but their families have significant problems. Coming home from school they often don't have anything to eat because their parents have spent all day gambling and drinking. The children tend to work very hard helping their parents in the rice fields, therefore learning music for them is a very important release from the pressures and difficulties of their daily lives.

Our school has now decided to officially insert them into our teaching timetable, providing food, care and assistance for those children worst affected by negligence and poverty. With the permission of their families and in coordination with them, we have formed this special group of highly talented scholarship students.

 

Please keep on Helping us!

 

Please continue helping our program. Your generosity has provided wonderfully diverse arts tuition for so many children and now our scholarship students too. Unfortunately the gap between rich and poor in Cambodia is ever-widening. Exacerbating this divide is the rising cost of food and rice. In order to help our scholarship students study they also need to be supported and to eat. This is one way of lightening the burden of costs for their families and ensuring that they continue studying and have a future away from alcohol abuse and addictive gambling. We also need to support out teachers for their priceless work, not only passing on their knowledge to new generations, but for their kindness, patience and skills.

During my visit to Cambodia, I also met the Minister of Culture who praised our school for our work and promised to protect us in the future. Our work is considered of vital importance, not only as a social development and vocational training, but representative of Cambodian people's desire to remember and restore their treasured culture.

Please tell your friends and collegues to support our work!

Thank You All from everyone at the Kampot Traditional Music School - Khmer Cultural Development Institute (KCDI)

Scholarship students perform Pin Peat
Scholarship students perform Pin Peat
Getting ready for the competition!
Getting ready for the competition!
Di Pok theatrical students
Di Pok theatrical students
Meeting the Minister
Meeting the Minister

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Should I go into Space? Photo by Silvia Gomes
Should I go into Space? Photo by Silvia Gomes

Dearest Friends and Supporters of our Kampot Traditional Music School KCDI,

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your wonderful support for the year 2014. You have been a most marvelleous help and your contributions have allowed us to reach our goal for 2013-2014 and to continue our project for free arts training for over 400 very impoverished children into 2015!

As we go into 2015, we are welcoming new little children on our free arts training program and we are planning to expand our program to include Lakoun Sabaik Toch, which is the ancient art of small Shadow Puppet theatre. This will be a wonderful new skill to learn and we will become the first puppet troupe in the province of Kampot. I will be posting more details in our next report.

Recently both our day children on the Free Arts Training Program, as well as our orphaned children on our Residential program were involved in a spectactular event. We hosted the Hanuman Space Project and collaborated and partnered with the Australian Theatre Company "Intimate Spectacle", the international Cambodian Rock Group, "The Cambodian Space project" and the local contemporary art space, "Light box"

Our children joined in to do workshops to make puppet space monsters, paint pictures of their idea of space and then participate in the performance itself. We fused traditional Cambodian music and dance with contemporary music, theatre and stage effects to make the first ever pscychadelic performance of the "Hanuman Space project". The story of a Cambodian monkey who finds pieces of old Soviet spaceship in the jungle and who decides to travel to space, facing many challenges and dangers on the way. It is also a very relevant story about the transition and changes that many rural Cambodians must face as they migrate to urban areas.

We had a most wonderful time working together with our Cambodian and Australian partners and our teachers and students found the experience, exhilirating and healing. It was also a great learning experience for us, as to how to create a professional stage setting, lighting and stage effects. Some very famous Cambodian artists also participated, such as the international rock star Chanthy, but also the greatest Master of the Chapeye tradition, Kong Noy. Professional dancers from the Royal University of fine Arts also came to dance with our children and the whole experience really brought home to them, the richness of their own cultural heritage and how far one can go with the arts.

Here is what the Australian theatre director said about working with our school:-

"This project has been a fantastc experience. It is such a privilge working with so many talented people. (The) KCDI atmosphere is very healthy and fun. Bravo to all the artists, students and teachers. Very blessed to be a part of the show".

and here is what the founder of the Cambodian Space project rock group said,

"It's been an inspirational experience woring with all the staff, teachers and students at KCDI. We couldn't have had a better project partner than KCDI for developing the Hanuman Space Project" 

 

Christmas Fundraising Appeal

I am writing this report early, because I would like to invite you all to participate in our Christmas Fundraising Appeal.

We have been fortunate to have been selected by GlobalGiving, to participate in this great event, from Monday 1st December 00:00 (midnight) EST Washington DC time until 31st december at 11-.59pm.

We must raise over $3,000 with over 30 donors participating to be able to be eligible for a prize of $3,000 from GlobalGiving. We are aiming to raise $10,000 because we really need this sum to keep on going.

Recently we were turned down by a major donor because we didn't fit into their criteria. This happens quite frequently because we work with both the arts and orphaned children, which is quite a difficult area to fund. We won't give up, because we believe in what we do. 

If you would like to be involved please also contact your friends, family and colleagues as well as spread the word on your Social network. Please read here below so that your donation goes as smoothly as possible!

 

° ** Please donate to our central project on GlobalGiving:-

Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia # 16371

We are one entity and whether you prefer supporting the arts training program for external students or whether you want to help our residential program all these children study at our school; By joining this Appeal and giving to One Project Only, you ensure the best possibility of our winning a matching prize. Funds raised go towards food, clothing, medical costs and teaching costs, electricity and water and help to keep our school open. We work in very close coordination with the Department of Social Affairs and so all our activities are strictly regulated and in line with Cambodian welfare law. If you give to the free arts training program for this appeal, it won't be counted (although it's very kind of you) and with too few donors we won't reach our goal of over 30 donors to one program. So please stick to the same project listed above, it's really important for us to raise these funds to keep our school open and running!

° Donations made by cheque must kindly be donated by 23rd December.

° Giftcards and Texts are not eligible for this Fundraising Campaign.

° Unfortunately recurring donors are not counted. If you can't make a donation, please ask a friend who can!

 

Thank you for having taken the time to read this.

From all of us here in Kampot, wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and every Well being and Peace for the New Year  2015!

butterfly dancers photo courtesy of Silvia Gomes
butterfly dancers photo courtesy of Silvia Gomes
Making space monsters by David Rosenberger
Making space monsters by David Rosenberger
Space Monsters! Photo courtesy of Silvia Gomes
Space Monsters! Photo courtesy of Silvia Gomes
The Hanuman Team outside KCDI photo by Rosenberger
The Hanuman Team outside KCDI photo by Rosenberger

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Free Arts Training Students in Yike Performance
Free Arts Training Students in Yike Performance

Dear Donors and Friends of Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children - Khmer Cultural Development Institute - KCDI,

Achievements:

Over a year has passed since you all began supporting our project, "Free arts training for over 400 children, Kampot Cambodia" at our school. Thanks to your generosity and continuity, our project has been running ever since, reaching out to the hundreds of very poor children in Kampot Province and providing them with a free training in traditional Cambodian arts.

Your help has been fundamental in ensuring the success of this project, we would not have been able to continue without your support. Did you know that this project is important for the following reasons and has achieved these same goals?

- Poor children can at last have access to free traditional performing arts education of the highest calibre, thus sharing in their cultural heritage and learning about their identity.

- Talented children can pursue the arts from primary school to high school level and take exams at KCDI to prepare them for entrance into the Royal University of Fine Arts and a career as a professional musician or dancer.

- Tuition of the arts helps towards the goal of preserving traditional Cambodian culture for the next generation of young Cambodians and ensures the survivial of this World Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO).

- Our school is part of a far-reaching program by the Ministries of Culture and Education to promote traditional Cambodian culture and to ensure that every primary school child has access to this learning. Unfortunately the Ministries in question do not have the resources to reach out to all of Cambodia nor do they have enough teachers, that is why this project in Kampot Province is held to be so important and unique and why our school, the Kampot Traditional Music School is held up as a role model for the rest of Cambodia.

 

Where do our Students Come from?

Students currently atttending these courses of Pin Peat, Mahori music, Classical Cambodian ballet, Folk dance and Yike Theatre are from three main state schools, "Samdech Ta", "Dipok" and "Kampot Krong". This is a quote from the head teacher of Dipok state school,

"Sometimes our students come to school without shoes on, or shoes which are falling apart. They come to school without books or stationary. They come from outlying rural areas in Kampot which are very poor. If the Kampot Traditional Music School didn't provide free tuition, these students would never be able to attend the arts lessons there."

From the photograph included in this report, you can see our Yike students giving their first major performance. These young students have in the space of one year, gone from being absolute beginners, to giving important theatre performances.

 

Future:

It is vital for the well-being of our students currently attending these arts training courses and for future primary school students to come, that we continue this extraordinary successful project. We have organized the coming academic year's curriculum, our current arts teachers from the Royal University of Fine Arts and the Ministry of Culture and National Theatre remain with us and are enthusiastic in continuing this program.

We will be expanding our program to include the tuition of Small Shadow Puppet Theatre (Sabaik Lakoun Toch) and Miniature Instrument Making:-

Sabaik Lakoun is an ancient art form dating back over 1000 years. It is a much loved and revered art, but yet in Kampot Province there is no puppet troupe. Learning the skill of shadow puppetry and how to make puppets will enable our school to learn a new and important art, reach out to more students, provide a therapeutic and holistic art form, as both our residential students and outreach students work on new educative story lines, practice funny voices and learn new ways of self-expression. Above all the citizens of Kampot can come and enjoy wonderful puppet performances and help contribute through small entrance fees, towards the upkeep and running costs of our school.

Miniature Instrument Making is a way of learning a new handcraft skill, directly connected to the mission and central theme of our school....Traditional Cambodian Musical Instruments! We can't afford to make large real instruments like gongs, because they require a metal foundry to melt bronze. But we can promote miniature instruments using local materials and help students and teachers learn new skills and through the sale of these tiny instruments, for our school to raise money to help us be more self-sufficient.

Please help us make sure our Free Arts Training continues for this coming academic year 2015 and help us with the start-up costs of these two worthwhile curriculums in our arts-training program; by joining our:-

GlobalGiving Fundraising day on the 15th October, where your donation will receive 30% matching funds from GlobalGiving. The Fundraising day starts at 09:00am Washington time and ends 11.59pm (23.59) Washington time.

Please check the World Clock Website for the right time to donate from your part of the world!

Thank you for all your very precious support and please keep on helping our important work.

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Organization Information

Khmer Cultural Development Institute

Location: Kampot Town, Kampot Province - Cambodia
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Project Leader:
Catherine Geach
Founder
Kampot, Cambodia
$13,106 raised of $20,000 goal
 
366 donations
$6,894 to go
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