BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
Over 70 kite flyers from 15 different cities and provinces across the country have attended the Khmer Kite Flying Festival on December 5 in Phnom Penh. The festival took place at Samdech Hun Sen Park on the banks of the river and was organized by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MoCFA).
Minh Kosny, Secretary of State with MoCFA, said that this was the 12th such festival organized in Phnom Penh.
“The main purpose of the event is to demonstrate the skill of the flyers and the beauty of their kites. We hope that the younger generation of spectators will be encouraged to take the hobby up for themselves, thus preserving this ancient art for future generations. The event will also help us choose flyers for competition both here and in future international competitions,” she said.
The Secretary of State said that Khmer kite flying is an important symbol of Khmer identity. She added that its history dates back over 400 years to the Fu-nan period, also known as the Nokor Phnom generation.
She continued that traditionally, the festival was also a ceremony of thanksgiving to Preah Peay the spirit of the winds. This important deity was responsible for bringing the rains to water the paddy fields and creating good weather when farmers wanted to harvest subsidiary crops from the forest.
In days gone by, the festival always took place outside the temple or pagoda to celebrate Buddhist religious festivals such as the creation ceremony enacted during the Kathen festival, according to Kosny.
She pointed out that since 1859 the Khmer Kites Flying Festivals had been in decline and had been completely abandoned after the death of Preah Ang Duong, former King of Cambodia. The tradition suffered further outrage during the decades of civil war, when the majority of historical documents relating to kites and kite festivals were destroyed.
However, after much hard work and research conducted by MoCFA, the Khmer Kite Flying Festival resumed its rightful place in the heart of the nation in 1994.
“I am very proud to have been involved with the re-establishment of the festival. It has been successfully conserved and future generations will thrill to the sight of a kite flying in Cambodian skies.” she said. “I hope that the festival will also gain popularity with tourists, thus strengthening and illuminating the Khmer identity for people to see across the world.”
Dek Sarin, Director of the Cultural Development Department with MoCFA, said that the Khmer kites had been developed to produce a more aerobatic display and that these graceful, colorful creations had influenced kite makers across the world. He said that since 1994, MoCFA had organized 12 Khmer kite-flying competitions nationwide.
He said that Cambodian Kite-flyers had been sent to participate in 43 international competitions, 19 of which were held in Europe, with the remaining 34 competitions taking place closer to home in the ASEAN region.
He told The Cambodia Weekly that in May 2007, MoCFA sent a Cambodian team to attend an international kite-flying competition in China. The team came in third place, winning them the bronze medal and plenty of international acclaim. Cambodians were also present in India in July this year, again pulling in a bronze medal.
Kim Vun, 59, a farmer from Ksarch Kandal district, Kandal province, and kite flying expert said that he was happy to attend Festival in Phnom Penh, this year.
Vun said,” On the occasion of the 12th festival, I am overjoyed to win first class, a gold medal, along with 300,000 riel award from the competition.”
He said, “Last year, I won a bronze medal from the competition and 200,000 riels.”
Results from this year’s competition are just in: Kim Vun from Kandal province won the first class in competition, Pao Ratanak, 54, from Kampot province won the second class, and March Chreoung from Kampong Speu province won the third class award.