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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        16  June 2011

Cambodians and Thai restore pagoda

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As the Cambodian and Thai governments and soldiers have been fighting during the border dispute the last few months, Thai and Khmer restorers have been bringing back to life the 70-year-old paintings of the Bakong Temple pagoda.

The one-year project was finally completed early this month and was celebrated at a special ceremony held on the morning of Saturday May 28, attended by the team members and about 100 locals who habitually use the pagoda.

The project was run by Bangkok-based Restaurateurs sans Frontières (RSF), and was the group’s first in Cambodia.

Five Thai restorers were part of the team. Not only did they carefully re-animate the traditional depictions of the Buddha’s life represented in several tableaux on the walls inside and outside the pagoda, but they also trained Khmer artists in the techniques applied, and the results are truly breathtaking.

“When we first arrived here last year, the place was a mess; dark, dirty, and it was impossible to tell what the paintings really were,” said Christophe Ourdouillie, an artist and decorator from Marseilles, France, who assisted on the project.

“It’s interesting because there is very little notion of conservation like this in Asian culture. With Buddhism, when something dies it should be born again, so objects tend to be completely renewed rather than restored to their previous form. For this, we needed to compromise. We have restored the paintings, but also made them and the pagoda look like new again.”

There is another special aspect to this project too. According to Ourdouillie, this is one of only 30 pagodas in Cambodia that has been restored to the traditional Khmer style. Most of the restoration works that were undertaken after the Khmer Rouge period used the Indian style, with bright, flashy colours.


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AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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