The Revival of Cambodia’s Pop Culture

Posted on Jan 8, 2018


By Sunita Mager – Culture and art in Cambodia are a hot topic. There hasn’t been as much artistic expression in traditional and contemporary performances, street art, modern art and music as there is right now. There are art galleries on every corner in Battambang, new galleries opening in Siem Reap, performances to watch and music creations to hear throughout the country as Cambodian’s art scene is taking flight. Young and creative youth are shaping contemporary Cambodian Pop Culture and reviving it.

dance group

By Hank Hsu

Why is Culture and Arts so important?

In July 2014, The Royal Cambodian Government adopted the Culture Policy document that promotes artistic freedom and reflects a right balance between preservation of heritage and promotion of creativity. Together with the UNESCO of Cambodia, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts the Swedish Embassy in Cambodia, the Cambodia Film Commission, Cambodian Living Arts and Phare came together to create the Arts Forum in order to support culture and the arts and to contribute to the creative economy.

As the Cambodia’s UNESCO representative, Anne Lemaistre said,  “The creative economy is not only one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy in terms of income-generation, job creation and export earnings, but is also a highly trans-formative one in terms of liberating the potential of innovation in society, creating new cultural exchanges and fostering social development.”

Street art BTB

 The Arts Forum

On November 23rd 2017, the second Arts Forum took place and our director, Hout Dara, had the opportunity to moderate a set of 4 panel discussions held in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia (MoFCA) together with UNESCO as the organizing partner. The forum took the theme of “Partnership for Cultural Dynamism: Challenges and Opportunities”. This time, the forum opened up the discussion with the focus on the possible partnerships to support culture and discuss challenges and opportunities of the Public, Private and partnership sectors.

2nd Arts Forum

Roughly 200 people attended the forum from three main areas: The public sector which includes members from the Ministry of Economy Finance, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Information. The creative industry which includes professionals in the arts, and the private sector – a group of influencers who play an important role in enabling cultural activities in the country through their sponsorship, CSR initiatives and branding strategies.

The day was filled with ideas on how each sector can contribute to the cultural and economical development of Cambodian art and culture. However Mr. Ricardo Casal, an art teacher put the importance of culture and the arts in humanity, social structure and the sense one’s of self-identity into clear perspective. Mr. Casal attested that an artist is primarily a researcher into the inner and outer self. He said that in our social construction, we need everyone in a healthy social eco-system. We need the intellectuals, the policy makers, the visionaries, the commerce savvies, the laborers and the artists.

 Live Painting in Taiwan

Furthermore he continued saying that the arts must be supported by the country’s economic ecosystem. When both the policy makers and private sectors see the economic values of the arts and cultural activities, many different mechanism can be inspired and learned from different successful models around the world to enable a striving creative industry.

The Arts Forum is a tool to keep the discussion going, and to continue to support the inevitable growing art culture in Cambodia. This is a first of its kind, and though in its early stages, it’s a step forward in the preservation and development of Cambodian arts (and pop) culture and we are curious to see it’s flourishing developments.