Monday, April 11, 2011

sousadey chnam thmey

I have a couple of pictures to share from Cambodian New Year in Long Beach on Saturday.

I will tell you, it was a hero's trial trying to get into this festival. We wanted to ride our bikes, but were stopped by bulky security at the entrance. No biking or walking, can you believe that? You had to drive your car into the park and clutter up the grounds with vehicles. You'd think a city sponsored event would encourage eco-friendly transportation.

Aside from that, it was fairly expensive, which made the whole scenario so strange. Biking back to the car via the aqueduct, we passed tons and tons of Cambodians trying to sneak into the event from the fields behind the park.
Apsara dancers 
Apsara are mythical celestial dancers that date back thousands of years. You can see the carvings of apsara on the temple walls at Angkor Wat. It's not the only form of dance in Cambodia, but I think it is probably the most popular. The movements are very subtle and graceful. Each pinch of the finger is full of symbolism relating to harvest and myths from ancient Angkor. Though the steps are simple, the form is very important. Little girls begin training as early as five, memorizing the precise posture and stretching their hands and feet daily to create the graceful bend. 
This is one thing I love about Cambodia. Even though the country is struggling with poverty, corruption and the aftermath of devestating genocide, still the people appreciate and love art. Music and dance thrive. 

We met this sweet singer after her performance. There was one song that J particularly liked (he likes to remix the songs too).
We dug through the CDs and DVDs at all of the outdoor vendors. Karaoke videos are a priceless piece of Cambodian culture. The music video industry in Cambodia is huge. They have pop stars that are household names no matter where you go, and ongoing video series that you can collect. We dug through so many, but couldn't find The song.
As we were scoping out the food stalls, we got into a conversation with an enthusiastic volunteer from Project Angkor, an organization that provides medicine to people in rural areas. We talked for a bit, then he took off and returned a few minuets later with a ton of food (and coffee : ) From that point at least three different groups of people offered to either buy or give us food. The generosity never fails to amaze me.

Two women across from us were smugging liquor in water bottles and kept telling us, "Shhh. Do you want some? Yeah? Shhh." They were eating crawfish. One woman was saying, "When I cook, mine are better. But I cry!" I thought she was talking about the bad crawfish she was eating, but then she said. "I cry! They came out of the pan, and I cried. I had to put the top on. So I don't make them anymore.... but I still like to eat them." She gave the funniest look, "what can you I do?!"

The event was a field day for kids. There were tons of games and activities for them.
 Probably the highlight for me - the costumes
As I was taking pictures, I ran into the designer (on the right) who was there promoting her new business. I wasn't able to do a proper interview as I would've liked, but I did get to ask her a few pertinent questions.

Name: Angkeara Brang
Business: Angkeara Bridal
Hometown: Phnom Penh, Cambodia, now living in Long Beach
How long have you lived in Long Beach? ten years
How long have you had this costume business? for 5 months. It is still new.
How long does it take to make a costume? usually 3 days to sew
Where did you learn to sew? I learned in Phnom Penh. I began sewing when I was 18 years old. I also worked in Malaysia and New Zealand.
Where do you get your fabric? I import most things from Cambodia, but I also have a shop here in Long Beach (1638 E. Anaheim St.)
And the metal pieces? I import those from Cambodia also, but I do the designs myself or give the designs for them to be made
Who are your customers? Most are for dance and bridal
How can we find your work? I have a website; we are still working on it.


The Many Colours of Happiness said...

They are beautiful pictures, it all looks so amazing!!

syntaxical said...

Great post! The event was good fun and the community really welcomed everyone.

I always enjoy your photos and expert analysis.

kimbirdy said...

oh wow, those costumes! i love learning about all the different asian countries, especially those which used to be siam. it looked like a great event... although such weird rules! who DOESN'T allow bikes?!

Anya adores said...

Such amazing pictures - wow I love them.
Thanks a million for making us all a little more awere of their culture :O)
A x