Art form gets UN heritage status

Chapey artist Kong Nay plays the instrument at the Cambodian Living Arts Association in Phnom Penh yesterday. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon
The Phnom Penh Post, Thu, 1 December 2016

After two unsuccessful attempts to have the musical artform chapey dong veng recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage, the third time proved the charm yesterday as it not only earned the status but was added to the urgent safeguarding list, making funding available to the government to apply towards its preservation.

The decision – made public via Twitter – was taken yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which met there this week.

The Cambodian traditional art form involves the playing of a three-stringed, long-necked, lute-like instrument while singing lyrics that can be a poetic telling of folklore as well as educational, satirical, and even a form of social commentary “I’m very happy for us,” Makara Hong, UNESCO national program officer for intangible cultural heritage in Phnom Penh, said upon hearing the news yesterday.

The status of urgent safeguard is reserved for heritage items that “may disappear” very soon, Hong explained. “It means the government should take urgent measures to safeguard the intangible cultural item.”

Indeed, the Cambodian Living Arts Association (CLAA), which took part in the application to have chapey recognised, is in the process of scouring the country for surviving “masters” of the instrument, of which there may be as
few as 20.

(more…)

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