Peace, Reconciliation and Dialogue Through Traditional Cambodian Arts

Exhibition Space at KCDI
Exhibition Space
3 May 2014
Transition Plan at KCDI
Transition Plan
4 May 2014
The logo of our school since 1994 is a Lotus Flower. In Southeast Asia and in Buddhism, the Lotus Flower means “Peace”. The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children – Khmer Cultural Development Institute (KCDI) is a centre not only of learning for Cambodian children it is also a community of ethnic and religious tolerance. Many staff are of Buddhist faith as are many of our children, but we also have Muslim Chham staff, all working together in respect and harmony.

Staff at our school regularly participate in both Buddhist and Muslim social occasions such as weddings and funerals. The Imam of the local mosque is an old friend of our school, as are the different Chief Monks in Kampot’s pagodas. At official school ceremonies all religious leaders are invited and often they visit for informal visits for tea and a chat.

Through our experience in working with orphaned and disabled children, our school has learned the healing power of music, dance and theatre. Our school has for a long period promoted peace and dialogue between students and adults of different countries and different religions through the use of cultural exchanges both at our school and abroad.

In the past 5 years, our school has welcomed foreign schools and institutions, as well as international artists to Kampot, while our students and teachers have also performed abroad in special concerts to promote peace and reconciliation, as well as the representation of the revival of Traditional Cambodian Culture.

Inter-Cultural Workshops and Performances :

We have done inter-cultural workshops with high school students from Qatar, with both our students and their students learning different dances and music from each other’s countries, as well as henna dying and the art of making and serving Arabian coffee. This workshop series culminated in a special evening performance. The Qatari students also did fundraising and donated to our school important material items for our children. Muslim and Buddhist students shared information on the religious and cultural significance of their performing arts.

The Kampot Music School two years running have held inter-cultural workshops with university students from the Sibelius Academy in Finland. Finnish students and teachers taught our children ancient Finnish Polyphonic folk songs and dances, while our teachers and students taught them traditional Cambodian ballet and Pin Peat music. Some of the Finnish students and coordinators also did research work for academic papers they were working on.

This last year we have had frequent visits from the UWCSEA scholastic Institute in Singapore. Here our students have shared in learning each other’s cultures, as well as working on friendship projects together, sponsored by UWCSEA to restore and re-paint our children’s bedrooms and dining area. The collaboration with UWCSEA student groups continues.

In early June we welcomed a professional Indian dancer to come and explore the cultural and religious similarities in the origins of Indian classical dance and Cambodian classical dance. Working together with our ballet mistress and musicians Ms Shilpa Darivemula brought new understanding to our team as to the similarities and differences in style, technique and significance within both dance forms. Our students and teacher learned Indian dance and Ms Darivemula learned traditional Cambodian dance.

Future Projects :

In October 2014, the Kampot Traditional Music School together with the Light box Exhibition Centre will be working together with an Australian theatre director to create and perform a contemporary theatre and music piece, “The Space Monkey”. Sponsored by the Australian Council, the project is the idea of Julien Poulson, who founded together with Cambodian artists a rock/pop group to revive 1960’s Cambodian singers. The project is not only about a monkey wishing to be the first monkey to go to the moon, but it is also a reflection on the difficulties rural Cambodians face coming from rural areas to the rapidly developing urbanization of the cities. The theatre will use both traditional Cambodian ballet and instruments as well as contemporary theatre and music.

*Please see our News section for our latest activities

National and International Concerts Promoting Traditional Cambodian Culture

The Kampot Traditional Music School has performed in Vietnam three times, on the invitation of the Government of Vietnam and the Cambodian Government and Ministry of Culture in concert programs designed to promote peace and reconciliation after the conflict and tense relations between Vietnam and Cambodia.

In 1996, the Kampot Traditional Music School performed in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy in a series of performances promoting awareness of Cambodia’s recent history and the revival of Traditional Cambodian music.

In 1998, the Kampot Traditional Music School after having worked together with the famous Dutch musician Corr Bakker and the percussionist Jeroen de Rijk, to create a combination CD of traditional Cambodian music and contemporary music, students went on tour in the Netherlands to perform both their traditional repertoire and together with Corr Bakker and musicians some of the pieces from the CD.

In 2009, the Kampot Traditional Music School performed both classical Cambodian music and ballet (Robam Chuon Pour – Blessing Dance) for the Gala Dinner in Qatar.

Nationally, the Kampot Traditional Music School has performed at the National Chatomuk Theatre (2014) for a National Competition where our school won 3rd place for the presentation of a new choreography “Bokor Dance”, to promote the micro-cosmos of Bokor National Park. Our school also performed at the National Competition in Sihanoukville 2013, where they won 1st place.

The Kampot Traditional Music School has performed on national CCTV television several times, as well as being featured in a 1995 BBC documentary, Australian ABC TV and South African Radio. The music of our school has also been used for the film “Than in the invisible war” directed by Michel Régnier (1995), about the struggle Cambodian civilians faced because of anti-personnel mines. The film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

Our school frequently gives free performances in remote rural areas so as to share the traditional arts with Cambodians from very poor and isolated backgrounds who would not normally have access to high quality performances.

Exhibitions :

In 2013 the Kampot Traditional Music School hosted the photograph exhibition “The Bomb Ponds” by award winning Cambodian photographer Vandy Rattana. Covering the little explored issue of the secret bombing of Cambodia by US forces during the 1970s, Rattana photographed the craters now become lakes and ponds made by the B51 bombers. His documentary film interviewing survivors has brought to life a hidden suffering by Cambodians during the agony of the war before the Khmer Rouge genocide.