In 2009-2010 I was offered a beautiful opportunity by the East West Center Arts Program (Honolulu, Hawai’i): contribute to the curation of an exhibition on Cham culture in Cambodia and Vietnam (thought this last part was provided by friend and fellow researcher Mohamed Effendy Bin Abdul Hamid). Thanks to people like Eric Chang, Lynne Najita, Maseeh Ganjali, and the incomparable Dr. Michael Schuster, this happened to a wonderful experience, both professionnaly and personally.
Handouts to get introduced to the exhibit here, click on pictures to read the labels.
Peacock Light This peacock light is used both by Chams and Khmers for various ceremonies. Among Chams, it is particularly used for possessions ceremonies (Cais). The Peacock is supposed to carry dead souls from one world to another and it is also a symbol of royalty. (Peacock Light – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2009 – Carton, leds)
Cham women used to be well-known for their Hols, silk patterned pieces using the Ikat technique. Scholars have argued that the Cham brought silk dyeing techniques to both Thailand and Cambodia. Among the main elements particular to Cham Hols, are the use of unique looms and weaving implements, the preference for bright colors, and the absence of straight lines which give a sense of dynamic design. The insertion of various visual and spiritual elements common to other Austronesian people in Southeast Asia bring the Cham aesthetics close to Sumatra, and Pelamban people as evidenced by the peacock in this sarong. Cham weaving was so acclaimed that Khmers Buddhists would often order from Cham weavers. These complex Khmer textiles called Pidans are used as ornaments in shrines and pagodas. (Phum Krabei, Kompong Cham Province, Cambodia – 1990’s – Silk – Weaver unknown – Loan by Morimoto Kikuo)
Ritual Swords – Padak During possession ceremonies, the swords are used by a medium who embodies the Po Krek, the magical tree protecting Champa kingdom. (O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Iron, wood) Eagle Wood (Agarwood) – Ghlao Ritual swords and other ritual objects are passed through the smoke of burning charcoal and eagle wood prior to ritual use. Eagle wood (Ghlao) and eagle wood essence are rare and valuable. Eagle wood gathering was once an important part of both economic and religious life of Cham. However, this is no longer possible due to deforestation. (O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Eagle Wood, charcoal) Wood offering plate – Bra’ab Offering betel nut is a very common ritual in Southeast Asia, especially during weddings. The color combination with its black painted undercoat and the repetitive jagged tooth designs symbolizing the Naga are characteristic examples of Cham aesthetic design. (Andong Tramuong, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Wood) Three Small pot for beetle nut preparation (Bau Truc Village, Ninh Thuan, Vietnam – 2007 – Stoneware and earthenware ceramics – Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman) Clay offering plate (Bau Truc Village, Ninh Thuan, Vietnam – 2007 – Earthenware ceramic – Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman)
Most of the objects showcased in this section are from Cambodia, and reflect, behind a more orthodox interpretation of Islam than in Vietnam, a lively ritual life. Rituals allow Chams in Cambodia to differentiate themselves: according to the way one would preserve the possessions (Cais), perform either a wedding ceremony or the prayer… Behind those affiliations of being orthodox or traditionalist, the social fabric is very elastic, people from both side join rituals from one and another.
The Gay Gak’ praying stick evolved from the Gay Jron Amon stick which is used in different Hindu rituals by Cham Balamon in Vietnam. Today, the Gay Kak is used by traditionalist Cham in Cambodia during Friday prayers and on special occasions such as Eid el Fitra and Eid el Adha. It symbolizes the human body and human life. The seven colors represent ears, eyes, nostrils and the mouth of the human face. Seven is also a symbolic number for Shia Muslims when representing the human face. (Praying Stick – Gay Gak’ – O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Wood, cotton)
Cover for meal offering – Tuk Jik After prayer, Cham men meet on the mosque’s steps to share tea and a sweet snack or a meal, and engage in religious and secular discussions. Food is brought by women on a plate covered by a simple banana leaf cone on Fridays, or by a more elaborate Tuk Jik on ceremonial days. More than a simple decorative object, the Tuk Jik emphasizes the importance of common meals. Eating a common meal after prayer is a custom that has roots in the Muslim world as well as among Austronesians who traditionally held meetings within a dedicated ‘central men’s house’. (Andong Tramuong, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Banana leaves, cotton, sequins – Artisan: Muk Srang) Tray – Ta’ Lam Cham used to make their own copper trays however, these crafts have now been replaced by mass produced enamelware from China. (Sala Lekh Pram Market, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Metal)
The Hindu / animistic naga (serpent) combined with the Islamic crescent moon on this wedding banner is an excellent example of syncretization. The naga – a snake able to live both on earth and in water – is a very common symbol of both fertility and virility throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian world. It is a powerful symbol among Cham in Cambodia: from it brides inherit powers. The banner presented here is used during Cham traditionalist weddings. The door banner hangs over the bride’s room, where the groom is going to join her, and the wedding is celebrated. The naga will play its two roles, protecting the new couple, and fertilizing this union. (O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Velvet, sequins – Artisan: Math Phah)
Head cloths The motifs found in the head cloth indicate an individual’s status in society and/or religious hierarchy. These pieces from Vietnam include (from left to right): a belt (Dang Talei Ka-Ing) and head cloth (Khan Matham) for the Patra, a prince figure in the Rija ceremony, and a long head cloth (Khan Mbaik) specific to Maduens who act both as Muezzins and ritual musicians who call upon divine ancestors. (Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Cotton, silk, metallic threads – Loaned by Thanh Phan) Belt This piece from Cambodia is used during a possession or circumcision ceremony. The belt symbolises the royal qualities embodied by the participant. (Andong Tramuong, Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia – Late 20th Century – Silk and sequins)
The hammock and umbrella exhibited here are important elements of a procession ceremony celebrated by Cham in Cambodia. The hammock and the umbrella indicate the royalty of the person or the object transported. During the annual possession ceremony of Mamun, the royal chronicles and genealogies carried around will be celebrated, read, and Cham youth will be initiated in the transmission of these writings. During the Cais possession ceremonies – similar to Vietnam Rijas – a sick person is healed by accepting a royal spirit into their body. During weddings, the groom is brought to his bride’s house carried in a hammock. Nowadays hammocks tend to be replaced by motorbikes. The manufactured umbrella is more of a status symbol than the traditional ones made of yellow silk and bamboo. The umbrella will be abandoned in the forest after a possession ritual to carry evil spirits away at the end of the ceremony. (Royal procession umbrella – Halu – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2007 – Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman) A banner is often sewn to an umbrella to make it look more ‘royal’. However, this banner would not actually be used for processions because of the Allah and Mohammad scripts embroidered on each side in sequins. This type of banner would usually be hung as a decoration above mosque doors or windows, or on the canopy of a bed used by newlyweds. (Allah-Mohammad banner – Tgrai Allah- Mohammad – Andong Tramuong, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2008 – Velvet, sequins – Artisan: Muk Nah) Hammocks are either made by the villagers or purchased from an itinerant Khmer or Cham peddler. (Hammock – Ayin – Udong, Kandal Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Bam) Three cushions need to be placed on the hammock, not only to make the carried person more comfortable but to place him / her or the sacred manuscript on a higher level as a form of respect. Embroidery designs are passed on from generation to generation. A Muslim influence can be found in the repetitive use of arabesques and the five pointed stars. (Cushions – Ptal Kol – O’Russei & O’Loi Villages, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Silk and cotton – Artisan: Math Tinah & Ae Seuh)
Three cushions need to be placed on the hammock, not only to make the carried person more comfortable but to place him / her or the sacred manuscript on a higher level as a form of respect. Embroidery designs are passed on from generation to generation. A Muslim influence can be found in the repetitive use of arabesques and the five pointed stars. (O’Russei & O’Loi Villages, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Silk and cotton – Artisan: Math Tinah & Ae Seuh)
A banner is often sewn to an umbrella to make it look more ‘royal’. However, this banner would not actually be used for processions because of the Allah and Mohammad scripts embroidered on each side in sequins. This type of banner would usually be hung as a decoration above mosque doors or windows, or on the canopy of a bed used by newlyweds. (Andong Tramuong, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2008 – Velvet, sequins – Artisan: Muk Nah)
The different clothes exhibited here show the multiple religious layers expressed during the many rituals performed by Chams. The clothes from Vietnam Chams are a sample from both groups Chams Bani / Awal (an heterodox Islam including Hindu and Animist references) and Chams Balamon / Ahier (a local interpretation of Hinduism over indigenous cults). But beyond this common religious syncretism, both groups shall not be perceived as separated entities: they are two undivided parts of a whole (male / female, out / in, left / right, after / before…). Therefore many rituals need priests from both sects to be performed. To a lesser extent, a similar phenomenon can be seen in Cambodia, where Chams refer to themselves either as traditionalists or orthodox, but share a common social structure. Costumes usually express one’s status in society, and for dignitaries, their position in the religious hierarchy. The width, the richness and the motives of the tassels are a special source of information on the status of the weaver. (Ka-Ing outfit – Phanrang, Central Vietnal – Late 20th Century – Loan by Mr Than Phanh) Ong Ka-Ing usually conducts the Rija Nagar (‘’The Kingdom’s Rija”), by dancing on smoldering ashes. The outfit is composed of a turban (Khan Mbang), a set of two shirts (Aw Lah Patih / Aw Lah Bhong), a white sarong bordered by red threads (Khan Mbaik Mrang), and a belt (Dang Talei). (Po Rome Outfit – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Loan by Mr Than Phanh) This outfit personalizes Po Rome, one of the last Champa King. Po Rome is particularly venerated by the Chams in different ceremonies, including the Rija, where he plays a central role. His outfit is composed of a headgear (Khan Matham), a white shirt (Aw Sah), a sarong (Khan Mban Jih), and he holds in his hands a red handkerchief (Tanyrak Bhong) (Mouh Tanoh Outfit – Udong, Kandal Province, Cambodia – 2000 – Cotton) This outfit is worn by female ascetics, the Muk Tanoh. Old women can become Muk Tanoh (‘Earth Women’) for a short time, particularly during rituals linked to the holidays of Id el Fitra and Id el Adha. During those festivals, the women sit in front of the entrance to the mosque. They represent a symbolic role of fertility and transmission. Muk Tanoh can also join the Imam San a secluded spiritual order and continue to maintain their ascetic life. This religious community parallels in its function and organisation Buddhist religious orders as well as Sufi orders found around the Muslim world.
(Achar Outfit – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Loan by Mr Than Phanh) Outfit daily worn by the Achar, a priest or spiritual guide for Chams Bani. The white color of the tunic (Aw Sah) symbolizes purity. Width, richness and motives of the headgear (Khan Mbram / Khan Matham) the edges of the sarong (Khan Bila), and the belt (Talei Ka-Ing Mrai) mark a specific status. The neck cloth (Kadung Gibak / Kadung Hala) is finished by betel nut and betel leaf bags which can be used for magical purpose.
The neck cloth (Kadung Gibak / Kadung Hala) is finished by betel nut and betel leaf bags which can be used for magical purpose.
The following costumes are worn during various Rija ceremonies, possession rituals celebrating one’s healing, the initiation of a Champa king spirit into a medium’s body, or the history of Champa royalties’ history. (Atau Outfit – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Loan by Mr Than Phanh) This outfit is worn by the Muk Rija herself. She is the most important character in the Rija ceremony since she invites royal spirits divinities to possess her by dancing. In most of the Ahiar communities the Rija can not be married, or if she is, has to divorce. Both Chams Bani in Vietnam and some Chams in Cambodia maintain some variations of such Rija characters and ceremonies (Cai). The outfit (Atau) shown here is composed of a turban (Khan Matham), a white-ivory tunic symbolizing the elephant tusk (Ao Bila) and a red sarong (Khan Bhong). (Patri Clothing – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Loan by Mr Than Phanh) This set of clothes is worn by the “Patri” or princess in the Rija ceremony. This outfit is also used during the Rija ceremony. It personalizes the Patri, or princess character. The outfit is composed of a headcloth (Khan Matham Bhong), a red and gold tunic (Aw Bhong Tao Mah), and a special kind of precious sarong (Aban or Ban) weaved with golden threads.
(Ritual mat – Cieu Bang – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Reeds – Loaned by Thanh Phan) This ritual mat (Cieu Bang) is primarily used during prayers to Cham gods and divinities. Depending on the manner in which the mat is configured, one mat can symbolize the feminine aspect (Awal), the masculine aspect (Ahier), or their fusion. (Raglai basket – Yaot – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) Raglai baskets (Yaot) are used in everyday life and may contain a variety of items. These baskets are made by Raglai people, a minority from the Vietnam Central Highlands regarded as Adei or ‘‘little brothers’’ by the Cham. Raglai and other highland minorities influenced the culture of the Champa kingdoms. (Matrilineal basket – Chiet Atau – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Reeds – Loaned by Thanh Phan) The Kumei or the women who are entitled to possess these containers, represent their matrilineal lineage. The basket is sealed with a red cloth that is a symbol of the male aspect. The baskets often hold ceremonial clothes or other Cham ceremonial and ritual objects. Rice baskets are used as containers and measuring tools by Cham from Cambodia and Vietnam. (Rice Basket – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) Rice basket made by the Khin majority Vietnamese craftsman. (Rice Basket – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) This rice basket can hold up to 10kg of rice. Made of woven bamboo, it is very sturdy. This basket has been used by a Cham family in Phanrang, Central Vietnam for many years. (Rice Basket – Jak – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) This basket is made by the Raglai ethnic minority who are closely related to Cham. Such baskets (Jak) are used as containers and tools of measurements for the rice (padai). (Fishing tool – Angruth Dai – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2009 – Bamboo) Angruth Dai, a tool used to catch fish, is used both by Khmer and Cham fishermen in shallow water area at the end of the dry season. (Rice basket – La – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) This rice basket (La) can hold up to 20 kg of rice (padai). This is also Raglai made. (Cambodian Rice basket – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2009 – Bamboo) It would be impossible to determine whether this basket was originally Cham or Khmer made, since both groups make them. As in Vietman, baskets are also used in Cambodia both as containers and measurements tools. (Cham Rice Husker – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) (Fishing tool – Chhnieng Dai – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2009 – Bamboo) Chhieng Dai, a tool used to catch fish, is used both by Khmer and Cham fishermen in shallow water area by the end of the dry season. (Raglai Rice Husker – La Ngua – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) (Khin Rice Husker – Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Bamboo – Loaned by Thanh Phan) The rice huskers (La Ngua) are commonly used by the Cham. They come in various sizes and are produced by different groups.
The Cham from the village of Bau Truc in central Vietnam are renowned potters. Cham ceramics are hand formed and the potters are women. They do not use a wheel and usually form their pots using coil techniques. Cham earthenware is fired outdoors. The materials used for fuel are wood, rice straw, rice husks, and dried buffalo and cow dung. Before being fired, the vessels must be dried. They are placed on a layer of wood twenty to thirty centimeters thick, and then covered with heaps of rice straw. The dung produces a fire that burns steadily for a long time, maintaining an unchanged appropriate temperature. The earthenware is fully fired after two or three hours. Small pots are called Nieu and steaming pots are named Cho.
(Large kettle – Clay stove – Small Cooking pot – Bau Truc Village, Ninh Thuan, Vietnam – 2007 – Earthenware Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman) (Medium sized cooking pot – Bau Truc Village, Ninh Thuan , Vietnam – 2007 – Earthenware – Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman) (Cham Mortar and pestle – Teh – Vietnam – Loaned by Thanh Phan) The bowl and the mallet ensemble are called Gai Thaok and are used to crush food ingredients. (Fish trap – Cambodia – 2007 – Bamboo) (Knives – Thong – Blacksmiths: Soh Loah & Soh Smael and Ong Yah – Chrok Romirt, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2010 – Metal and wood) Cham in Cambodia were known as powerful and faithful warriors, whether as opponents or allies to ruling Khmer kings. Although presently Cham do not make arms, they are still known as metal smiths. Here are shown a Trong Thnot knife, with its maker’s signature, and a Thong Ta’a Kat or “half blood” knife used for cutting wood and coconuts.
(Chrok Romirt, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Polyester; cotton) Cham from Cambodia used to weave their own cotton or silk sarongs until the turmoil of the 1970’s. Nowadays people buy imported sarongs from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia from local markets.
(Cambodian Cham Female Outfit – O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 1960’s (tunic) and 2009 (sarong) – Silk, cotton) This typical Cham outfit is worn by women in daily life and for ceremonial days. Today, while the cotton sarongs imported from Thailand and Indonesia are popular basics found in any female outfit, the black silky tunic (Aw Tah) tends to be reserved for special holidays.
(Phanrang, Central Vietnam – Late 20th Century – Polyester, cotton – Loaned by Thanh Phan) Cham women wear this kind of outfit during their daily activities. It is composed of a headcloth (Khan Mbram) and a dark green tunic (Aw Tuak Bar) which is a very popular color. The supplemental weave and ikat found in the sarong (Aban Tam Un) displays the complexity and subtlety of Cham weaving.
(Male Kopeahs – Chrok Romirt, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – cotton; velvet) Skullcaps or Kopeahs are usually purchased from family members or friends coming back from Malaysia who take the opportunity to engage in small scale trade. Kopeahs are worn during prayer times or special occasions and reflect one’s wealth, status, and overseas connections. (Male Silk Sarong – Phum Trea, Kompong Cham Province, Cambodia – 1990’s – Silk – Weaver unknown – Loaned by Morimoto Kikuo) This silk sarong has a design that was commonly worn by Cham men. The check pattern is accented with a subtle checked vertical panel. The cost of production and the fall in demand of this kind of sarong make it a rare object.
(Chrok Romirt, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Polyester and cotton) Women’s scarves reflect a woman’s wealth, status, social network, and sometimes religious affiliations. Most of the time, women from the same family will share them. The Krama, a common Khmer scarf, is used by Cham as a head scarf.
(Andong Tramuong Village, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – Silk , cotton, sequins, mirrors) This old, undated banner, belongs to what is now called “the ancient style”, since such banners are not made anymore. The pointed white triangles, the use of mirrors, and the form of the fringes, clearly show a very strong Indian influence. The color combination aesthetic is unique and can be seen in many other objects in the exhibition.
(Bags – Kadung – Phan Rang, Central Vietnam – 2007 – Loaned by Michael Schuster & Gayle Goodman) With the emergence of a tourist based economy in the region, Cham are now developing new products using old weaving patterns . (Cushions – Ptal Kol – O’Russei & O’Loi Villages, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 1960’s;2009 – Silk and cotton Artisan: Math Tinah & Ae Seuh) Cham aesthetics roots can be seen in the ancient temples and their sculptural ornamentation. The black cushion was made in the 1960’s. Its cross-stitched embroidery required exactitude and precision. The last woman able to make them lost her sight a few years ago. The other cushion utilizes a white background instead of black, and is embroidered with satin stitches A handful of old women are still able to make these so called ‘modern’ type patterns, but the knowledge isn’t being past to the next generation.
(Ceramic – Bau Truc Village, Ninh Thuan – 2007 – Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman) Central Vietnam Cham are renowned potters. The beauty of their art is expressed in the design with its soft lines and natural polishing. Traditional ceramics are hand-formed, often with coils. This stoneware pitcher is used as water vessel.
The Cham have long been renowned for their weaving. During the Champa period textiles were highly prized and would be offered to divinities along with gold, silver and other precious materials. Champa treasures which were maintained by highland people (Churu and Raglai) contained precious textiles among other artifacts. Cham textiles are remarkable because of both their quality and their symbolism. Influences from Austronesia, South China, India, and the Muslim cultures can be identified in the different pieces showcased here. Cham weaving in Vietnam is currently being marketed to tourists.
The pillow case is woven with an image of Skanda, god of war in Hinduism.
(Cotton and metallic threads, 2007 – Loaned by Michael Schuster and Gayle Goodman) Both the pillow case and the caddy are hand woven with ancient images but are made for contemporary use. The pillow case is woven with an image of Skanda, god of war in Hinduism. The contemporary pocket holder re-employs old symbolism and patterns: a red temple design; dancers who could be stylized apsaras; Skanda, god of war in Hinduism, and a Naga.
(Weaver: Phu Thi Mo – Silk and cotton – My Nghiep , Ninh Phuoc district, Central Vietnam – 2007 – Loaned by Michael Schuster & Gayle Goodman) These three woven textiles are woven on unique Cham looms by the internationally recognized weaver, Phu Thi Mo. The video playing opposite has a small section showing the supplemental weave techniques being used. This is a very time consuming process but makes for the unique brocade look of the textile. White is a particularly important color for Cham ritual clothing. The silver and gold textile also uses ikat techniques.
(Magical diagram – Rak’Chah – Udong, Kandal Province, Cambodia – 2003 – Maker: Ong Soo – Paper) This amulet is folded into a square and carried by the owner in his pocket. It brings luck, protection for the traveler, love, and prosperity. Other amulets are designed to cure romantic problems, to insure a husband’s fidelity, or as a love potion. Numerous cultural influences can be traced to Indic, Hindu, Shia Islam, and Southeast Asia. Both Cham and Arabic script are used, however, an undecipherable secret script that contains magical powers is usually favored. (“Mohammad’s hair cut” magical diagram & poem – Nabi Kao Koh – Udong, Kandal Province, Cambodia – 2003 – Maker: Ong Leb – Paper) A summary of the poem as follows: “The angel Jibrael cut the hair of the prophet Mohammad. Each lock of hair that fell to the floor was collected by the four Caliphes and distributed to all Muslim people. Each single hair was believed to contain magical power. The Caliph Ali brought one lock and thus magic to Champa. This is where all Cham amulets come from.” The poem which precedes the diagram itself is unique to Cham but similar versions can be found in Indonesia. References to Ali and other elements in the poem cleary connect it to Shia, a Muslim school of thought common in Persia and India. (Magical diagram – Ajimath – Chrok Romirt, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Maker: Ong Yah – Cotton) This magical diagram has the power to bring luck and prosperity to either home or business. The diagram hangs from the ceiling, providing protection over the whole household. It uses verses from the Koran that are considered auspicious and protect the user. However, the use of such a diagram, its design, and the choice of red fabric are common to Khmer Buddhist diagrams. (Magical belt – Ksae Gatha – Udong, Kandal Province, Cambodia – 2003 – Makers: Ong Soo & Ong Leb – Plastic tube, nylon cord, and paper) This Cham magical belt has its origins in Khmer Buddhist tradition. Magical diagrams are placed in each segment. This type of belt is especially designed for protection of the body and used by warriors and travelers.
Cham language is classified as an Austronesian language. It therefore differs from the neighboring Khmer and Vietnamese languages, yet is similar to other Austronesian languages such as Malay and local languages spoken in the highlands such as Raglai, Radhe/Ede, and Jarai. The Cham alphabet is based on the Indian Devanagari script. It developed into two different styles: one used in Cambodia and one in Vietnam. Cham texts often incorporate a simplified form of Arabic called “Bani script” or simply “Cham Bani”, i.e. “religious script”. Chams in both countries currently work to insure the continuity of daily use of their language and moreover of their script. In everyday life Cham language and culture is highly syncretic incorporating Cham, Khmer, Vietnamese, Arabic, Jawi & Malay, and Roman & English elements. (Koran – Chrok Romirt, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009) This type of Koran can be found in the Muslim cultures throughout the world. It is very common among Cambodian Muslims. The Koran are attainable through networks of familly and friends who travel to Malaysia. However, most often local and international Muslim NGOs in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Middle East and USA distribute these goods as donations. (Git – O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Copist: Ol Ly – Paper) The Git is a Cham version and interpretation of the Koran. Koranic verses are written into a Cham form of Arabic, while explanation or comments are written in Cham. No direct translation into a European language or Arabic exists. It is therefore difficult for scholars of Islam to connect the Git, or other Cham religious texts to Muslims books.
(Khmer Calendar – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2009 – Paper) Cham traditionally use the Khmer calendar that is similar to the Indian lunar calendar. (Calendar of the ‘Religious Muslim Affairs Bureau of Cambodia’ – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2009 – Paper) In Cambodia the Mufti is the chief responsible of all muslims in the country. His office produces every year an official calendar similar to those used all around the muslim world. It indicates both national and Muslim holydays using Khmer, Roman and Arab scripts, but is mainly a resource for the exact time of the 5 prayers a day. (Two Rotating Nagas – O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Caligrapher: Ol Ly – Paper) Rotating Nagas are very common in Southeast Asia, most notably in Cambodia where they are used before planning a trip, building a house, or organizing a wedding. Every trimester the Naga changes direction (North, South, East, or West). Two Nagas have been made for the exhibit: a simple one based on traditional design (right) and a colorful Chinese-style one (left). (Clockwise calendar – O’Russei, Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia – 2009 – Made by A-Phum, son of Kai Toam – Paper & wood) Since Cham have been using complex calendars (lunar & solar, Muslim & Indian…) and combining them together along with various scripts, a clock wise system was invented by some to localize time on a common scale. This exhibited clockwise calendar is a contemporary interpretation of a much more complex one. The young man who made it introduced both Khmer and English translation on both sides of the Cham days of the week.
(Songs Collection of Soh Math – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2008) Soh Math was one of the most famous Cambodian singer in the 1960s. (Cham Karaoke (2 vols.) – Phnom Penh, Cambodia – 2008) The themes of the songs are either romantic episodes of vexed love stories or tributes to Cham cultural and religious heritage.
Phnom Penh, February 12, 2013, Emiko Stock.
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