A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The sexy Apsaras and the negative reactions from cultural officials

Two of the Apsaras posted at reahu.net that have caused a stir in the circles within the Khmer cultural experts.

Reaksmei Kampuchea newspaper
22nd December, 2008
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization

The Cambodian Minister of Women Affairs and Culture has requested a group of Khmer artists based in the United States to stop drawing sexy Apsaras (celestial dancers) and change their sensual appearances after those drawings were put up for sales on a website called reahu.net.

Dr. Michel Tranet, a renowned Khmer historian said that that website has gone too far from the original context of the famous Khmer Angkorian cultures. He said that the sexy drawings of the European-styles is the deliberate intentions of the artists in the promotions of prostitution. Some tourists are seeking sexual pleasures and this is no secret or not new.

What Dr. Tranet wants is a cultural tourism about Cambodia, not sex tourism. Dr. Michel Tranet said that all the Apsara drawings on that website have deviated from the bas-reliefs carved during the Angkorian period because the drawings show the Apsaras as bending down to show their sexy bottoms or hug each other in a sensual way. He said: “This is what our culture never have before or never have promoted.”

He said this is an influence of a culture that incites sexual fantasy which is a deviation from the form or the characteristics of Khmer culture. It is true that the achievements of our ancient artists were of high standards and are to be proud of and unrivalled. But in contrary to the values of Khmer culture, those Khmer-American artists have not put the values of Khmer women to the highest echelon as did during the Angkorian period.

Many Khmer philanthropists have appealed to those artists to modify or to just change the appearances of those drawings that is un-Khmer. Dr. Tranet said that, if those artists have goodwill and good judgements they should do what is good and what is appropriate.

Dr. Tranet appealed to those three artists to help maintain Khmer national soul as they are Khmers as well because whether they like it or not the flags our the Khmer soul are in their hands.

Cambodian Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Ing Kantha Phavi, has expressed concerns that the website will degrade the values of Khmer women and the fine Khmer culture and traditions. She is trying to contact those three artists to ask them to clarify about their motives for those drawings.

Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the government spokesman and minister of information, agreed with Mrs. Ing Kantha Phavi, but said that the drawings have no political messages.

Mr. Chuch Phoeung, secretary of state of the ministry of culture and arts, said that the website was not based in Cambodia. He said that the Cambodian authority cannot do anything. If it is based in Cambodia we can invite them to explain to us. He agreed that those drawings can cast a bad image of the Khmer culture but said that the Khmer authority is unable to do anything (to stop them).

Mr. Reahu, one of the animator at reahu.net, who have visited Cambodia recently, said that reahu.net has three artists who have studied arts/drawings in the United States and they do drawings as a hobby during their free time.

The Apsara drawings which are currently on sales include two sitting topless Apsara girls, topless Apsaras with see-through dress, topless Apsara leaning on the rock in front of the real Angkorian walled-Apsaras and a sensual topless Khmer Rouge woman soldiers carrying a gun.

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