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The Art of Ikat: A Cambodian Renaissance
សិល្បៈតម្បាញហូល៖ ការរស់ឡើងវិញនៅកម្ពុជា*

22 February – 31 May 2024
Royal Library of Denmark - Copenhagen University Library Søndre Campus
Karen Blixens Plads
2300 Copenhagen S

Opening Event
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Curated by Magali An Berthon for the TEX-KR project with the support of Morten Grymer-Hansen

In 1975 and until 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime turned Cambodia into a communist peasant dictatorship. With rural populations being displaced and arable land requisitioned for collectivised rice farming, artisanal silk weaving and fibre production nearly fully stopped. During that period, the National Museum of Cambodia, located in Phnom Penh and founded in 1919 during the French protectorate was shut down and closed until the collapse of the regime. After its reopening in 1979, more than three-quarters of its textile collection was missing, most likely due to looting and environmental degradation. All of the polychrome weft ikat (sampot hol / សំពត់ ហូល) and the religious pictorial ikat hangings (hol pidan / ហូលពិដាន), two highly recognisable types of Cambodian textiles, had disappeared. Since the 1920s, these precious silks had been collected and cared for by successive museum curators from museum founder George Groslier to Jean Boisselier, Madeleine Giteau and first Cambodian director Chea Thay Seng until the early 1970s.

This exhibition sheds light on the formation and subsequent loss of this textile collection and the devastating effects of the Cambodian civil war and Khmer Rouge regime on textiles as material culture and heritage. To this end, the exhibition explores the art and practice of ikat, hol (ហូល) in Khmer, a resist-dyed weaving technique mastered in Cambodia, and the significance of figurative and auspicious motifs used in Buddhist pidan ikat hangings. To exemplify the vitality of Cambodian arts, three artists are invited to create new pieces echoing this lost collection, based on the missing objects’ pictures and descriptions found in the cataloguing records recovered post-conflict at the National Museum of Cambodia. Facing this history of conflict which has led to the tremendous loss of artefacts and ancestral know-how, these creators embrace the vitality and resilience of Cambodian arts relying on the power of making, memory, and imagination.

Featured artists:
Golden Silk Pheach
Linda Sok

Scientific partners:
National Museum of Cambodia
Bibliothèque de l’Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient
Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen

This exhibition is made possible with support from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action – European Union Project (Grant agreement no. 101025131) and the Asian Dynamics Initiative at the University of Copenhagen.

*Khmer transliteration: Selpak Tombanh Hol: Kar Ros Lerng Vinh Nov Kampuchea.

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