Angkor Wat
khmer Ballet Dance
Khmer Shadow Theatre
Preah Vihear
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Preah Vihear
Preah Vihear
Preah Vihear

Khmer Shadow Theatre

Khmer Shadow TheatreThe Sbek Thom or Khmer Shadow Theatre is a form of performances using non-articulated puppets made of leather. It is performed at only a few occasions of year, such as the Khmer New Year, the King’s birthday or veneration of famous people. The puppets are made from a single piece of leather in a special ceremony for each character representing gods and deities. The hides are dyed with a solution made from the bark of the Kandaol (Careya arborea Roxb.) tree. The artisan draws the desired figure on the tanned hide, then cuts it out and paints it before attaching it to two bamboo sticks enabling the dancer to control the puppet.

Under the articles of the Paris 17 October 2003 Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Sbek Thom was recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005, and in 2008 was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This recognition enables Cambodia to protect Sbek Thom against threats of deterioration, disappearance and destructions.

Sbek Thom performances traditionally take place at night outdoors beside a rice-field or pagoda. A large white backdrop is held between two tall bamboo screens in front of a large fire or, nowadays, projector. The shadows of the puppet’s silhouettes are projected onto the white screen. The animators bring the puppets to life with precise and specific dance steps. The performance is accompanied by an orchestra and two narrators.