IKTT (Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles), from SiemReap Cambodia
IKTT (Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles), from SiemReap Cambodia



Organized by Institute for Khmer Traditional Textile and The Center for Khmer Studies

Funded by Japan Foundation Asia Center


Public Exhibition & Seminar at Vat Damnak, Siem Reap

The Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) and the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) organized the first public Exhibition and Seminar project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the purpose of introducing to the general public (Cambodian and international) the Cambodian weaving and dyeing method characterized by the textile tradition of ‘Hol’ – or Cambodian Ikat, and its place in Cambodian history and culture.

The exhibition / seminar project ‘Hol, the Art of Cambodian Textile; A Blending of Two Esthetics: The Khmer and Cham Senses’, took place from October 1, 2003 until December 15, 2003, at the Center for Khmer Studies Conference Hall located within the Buddhist Monastery of Vat Damnak, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Background and Aims of the Project:

After thirty years of civil strife and decades of isolation, Cambodia is struggling to re-capture its cultural and artistic heritage while the rest of the world has had little awareness of this rich and fast disappearing heritage. This situation is particularly critical with regard to the traditional textile craft.

In a country – and a city – which is rapidly changing, IKTT felt it needed to reach out to the Cambodian community in the form of a public event; a free and public exhibition with accompanying seminars. Cambodians are not always aware of the value and fragility of their cultural heritage, especially as the trends of commercialization now become a looming threat to this heritage. Moreover, with Siem Reap – Angkor becoming a focus for numerous tourists from all over the world because of its temples, we think it is equally important to raise awareness among visitors to link this ancient heritage with the culture of the living community of Cambodia today.

In Cambodia and abroad, textile tradition is not always recognized as a ‘noble’ art compared to the more well-known ancient Cambodian monuments or performing arts. With this exhibition/seminar project, we hope however to demonstrate that Cambodian ‘Hol’ tradition encompasses an equally deep sense of esthetics and spiritual symbolism that is integral to Cambodian cultural identity.


Since its establishment, IKTT has collected many old Cambodian textiles for preservation purposes. At present, it holds more than 200 fabric samples. IKTT is working on re-issuing these textiles by using traditional techniques and organizing workshops. In the case of Cambodia, the best examples of old textiles were destroyed or taken away overseas. This is the reason why the general Cambodian public today has limited knowledge about Cambodian textile tradition and its importance in Cambodian culture. We wanted to use this exhibition as an opportunity to raise awareness among the general Cambodian and international public and present research made on the preservation of these textile techniques and methods. While the exhibition served to expose visitors to the processes of weaving and dyeing and old weaving instruments, the main items exhibited were:

Content: 30 pieces of old Cambodian Ikat fabrics from the IKTT preservation collection
Cambodian native yellow silk and sericulture
Traditional natural dyeing and its dyestuffs, Old tools,
Demonstration: Weaving, Tying, Silk thread cleaning
Duration: Exhibition & demonstrations were held daily for three months
(October 1, 2003 - December 15, 2003).


This was the first seminar on traditional textiles that has ever been organized in Cambodia. IKTT and CKS, are two independent, private, non – profit organizations working on:
1) rehabilitation of Cambodian textile tradition by conducting research on traditional techniques, and training Cambodian weavers. (IKTT)
2) developing scholarly knowledge on Cambodia’s society and culture with the promotion of Cambodian scholars. (CKS)
The seminar aimed to introduce: 1) the history and importance of Cambodian textile tradition 2) the technical and visual aspects of Khmer traditional weaving/textile in the form of demonstrations, dance performance and interview with master weavers. 3) Offer an opportunity for Cambodian and international scholars to reflect on the importance and value of the textile tradition in Cambodia, from the ancient Angkorian times to the present-day, after years of war and destruction.

A selection of Cambodian and international scholars and professionals were invited to present on a variety of inter-related subjects, with a special emphasis on the active participation of Cambodian speakers. Complementary to the exhibition, the purpose of the seminar was to basically initiate more systematic thinking and research on textile tradition in Cambodia and its long influence in South– east Asia. We hope that, as a result of this first event to take place in Cambodia, more initiatives will follow, and that Cambodian professionals, masters and scholars will have the opportunity to exchange and share their experience with international colleagues.

Main Themes of seminar program

H.E. Son Soubert, Prof. Michael Vickery and H.E. Pich Tum Kravel opened the seminar presenting details about the historical background and main artistic and cultural characteristics of the Khmer and the Cham. Speaking not only of the differences between the Cham and the Khmer, they also highlighted how they influenced each other on a cultural and artistic level.

In the second session, Mr. Khun Samen, Mr. Hab Touch and Ms. Gill Green discussed textiles in the Angkor period. They presented the evolution of Angkor statue motifs, costumes and textiles as decorative items in the Angkor period.

In the third session, Mr. In Siyonda, Ms. Gill Green and Ms. Him Nala gave insights on what different kinds of Cambodian textiles can be found in various districts of Cambodia. In this session, the meaning of antique Buddhist Pidan and the Naga motifs in old Cambodian textiles were also raised.

To help visualize and appreciate the art of Cambodian textiles, the first day concluded with a traditional Khmer dance performance in which all of the dancers wore traditional textile costumes. Dances included ‘Robam Choun Por’ (welcome dance), Robam Ongle (farmer dance), Robam Konsaen Snae (popular dance of Cham people), ‘Robam Yike’ (popular dance) and Robam Apsara (Khmer classical court dance).

The second day of the seminar, Mr. Kikuo Morimoto and Ms. Prak Bonamy presented their work on how Cambodian textile culture is related to its natural environment; i.e. what techniques weaving women use and what role housewives have in silk weaving. The seminar concluded with a workshop on natural dyeing and silk weaving, as well as a video presenting interviews with two master weavers.

(Please see SEMINAR PROGRAM for paper and presentation abstracts)

update : May 31, 2004 1:24 PM

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