It’s Chinese new year. Right now and right here in Phnom Penh, today. It was also back then and back there, in that 60’s little town of Sala Lekh Pram, 60 kms away from Phnom Penh, miles into Kompong Chhnang province, a bouncy urbish square of land, flowing by the national road, holding on to the lake. The market is still around, sleepy when the sun is acting up, awake when coffee hasn’t been served yet to a weird assortment of moviegoers and dark-brew-sippers in that even quirkier western like saloon – sorry meant coffee-shop – screening the most illogical – and shall I add deliciously immoral? – selection of pirate VCDs. That market summarizes quite the intricacies of that idiosyncratic center of the world that Sala Lekh Pram can be to some. Sort of. In many sorts. Continue reading
“Because I am too old now, that’s why. This is exhausting. All that travel, all that work. So I am done, that’s it”. A pout face on me. That of a disappointed spoiled child. The partner in crime of photo swaps and techniques on a straw is retiring. Who am I going to nerd around from now on??? Filters shining through, exposures blurring people in precising ghosts out, Cecil B DeMille grand schemes for the next wedding set… The conversation has barely started, I turned around for a minute and this is it: Saeth Umar, quite the DYI uncle of all images has run his course, and leaves his photographer job to potential younglings. “I’ll miss it that’s for sure” concludes his little impulsive laugh. The laugh of a boy of 60+ year old who never stopped being amazed and amused by what started as quite a challenging job: making images in a no-more-images land. Continue reading
Up to this day, still attractive I am sure. Sitting, still tall I can tell. ”Haven’t seen you in a while”. The smile also the same. ”It’s been some time. You don’t come much to the mosque anymore, where have you been?”. The voice has aged a bit, but it still holds on to the air. It still hangs in. Just like when Ong San was a ‘Bilal’ holding on the call for prayer, just when I was an anthropology undergrad, hanging out at the mosque. Me hours in, listening. Him hours out, chanting more than a mere call: for the ‘Bilal’ – named after the first muezzin of Islam – has a voice performing a much more important function among Chams – and more specifically the ‘followers the Imam San’ – than in other places. The photography goes from my hand to his: a double, enlarged. A smile, quite large. ”Oh… I forgot you framed that one”. Lost for a minute: ”It sure was back in the days!” bursts the laugh, deep, from the bottom of the lungs, if only laughs could be prayers… Continue reading
The Keyser Söze Effect relies all on this paradox: the delight of being deceived, the magic of a manipulation. The pleasure found right there, in that revelation: the rules of the game have all along been yours truly, yours only, you’ve played, you’ve lost. Hit the repeat button. Play it again Sam. And you probably have. I know I have. My collector VHS even breaking down on me: dooming to addiction those very last minutes of the epic finale of Bryan Singer’ 1995 ”The Usual Suspects”. The how to leave it all to your viewer. The want-more, because you gave me less (or so it seems). The want-a-Keyser-Söze-effect-for-ethnographic-movies. Continue reading
The figure of Buzz Lightyear flies by as I feel-fall in desperate need of ”rescue”. Just thinking this – ”to the rescue” – somehow always brings me back to Buzz: probably because he is the only one – outside of the real business of actual emergencies of tall firemen, strong soldiers and bulky swat teams – to still ab-use the expression (note to self: resist the temptation of ”abuzzing”). Rescue is really the only thing right now that can save me from the upcoming megaton wreckage of – what the hell was going on in this empty helmet brain of mine? – presenting this short movie of me. In public. With actual people watching I mean. Buzz Lightyear to the rescue of the apprentice – of sort – of visual anthropology. That’s about it. Or is it really? Is Buzz flashing by in that grand conference room devoted to animated anthropology with really nothing else to do? Or is his flickering in this bulb of mine, directly speaking to the actual matter of the symposium: an homage to Bob Ascher, anthropologist animated by the possibilities of animated anthropology, possibilities of – as Buzz only can put it – ”To the Infinity and Beyond”? * Continue reading
Weeks of proposals with no end, living with anthropology day and night, dreaming and nightmaring of research… The grants season… I had it, enough already. A break. Needless to say I went to my pile of DVDs to find refuge. And out of nowhere it seemed, picked up Woody Allen’s 1983 ”Zelig”. I had seen it as a teenager, in a moldy subterranean Parisian cinema re-re-re-screening ”classics”. I had no recollection whatsoever of the movie. Barely that – as usual – there were about 3-4 viewers in the theater, that Woody was his usual self, and that it had the flavor of a documentary of the 30’s. And here I am: years later, just as I am looking forward to get as far as possible from anthropology, I certainly didn’t remember the potential of ‘’Zelig’’ to reflect on just exactly that. (Visual) Anthropology goes to the movies, first take!
A tall woman. A pendant made out of gold, or at least a golden shade, applied later, applied for better. Finger waves. A touch of rouge. A certain elegance in the way the hand uncertainly hangs on the body. And just pure elegance holding on to the whole pose, holding together the whole picture, holding together the two young ladies. Meet Ly Mah in her seventeen. Meet her as an introduction to a series of family sagas I have long been willing to share.
Act 3, Scene 3.
‘’You know he is not really a man in fact…’’. Ong-Always-Cranky (for he is always cranky) says. There has been a silence before that. Not a usual thing with Ong-Always-Cranky. The silence followed the departure of the couple from the hill, as they left the little ascetic community covered up by the forest and the stupas of the former Cambodian royal capital of Udong. The couple had been living here for a week or so. That’s what they did, in life. Going from one hill to another, one monastery to another, one retreat refuge to another, mapping all the country’s unworldly world, together, hand in hand. Continue reading
The picture is as simple as it gets. An absolute statement that minimalism is understated. When a single studio portrait can unpack so much. An invitation to question ethnic borders and limits. In a previous post it was all about Phnom Penh. Now let’s go along the river to Sala Lekh Pram, sit for a minute and see that indeed cosmopolitanism was never strictly a capital thing.
It’s been a while since this little ‘’Cham’’ ‘’Visual Anthropology’’ blog hasn’t been much ‘’Cham’’ and ‘’Visual’’ and that old pictures haven’t been showing up on the screen to chit-chat with the present. Way time to get back on track friends! So hop in for a little pilgrimage… Continue reading
This past week has been quite important for Cambodia and Thailand. Of course both calendars highlighted a long holiday of celebrations to kick off the new year. But some Thais and Cambodians were getting busy a the very same time, arguing their case in front of The Hague International Court of Justice. The ‘final’ discussions over the long disputed case of 11th century Preah Vihear temple and moreover its surrounding area, are supposed to be coming to an end… a solution for the borderline between the two neighbours. Well, if you are a regular of this blog, you know that if I mention this… there must be some Chams behind the scene somewhere… And indeed, there are! This little forgotten archive I recently found while doing a little ‘new year cleaning’ just cried out to be on stage today. Continue reading
Today I was invited to the wedding of Tiya, whom I have known for a decade and grown found of over the years. She also happens to be the grand daughter of Mouh Som and Ong Leb, who have been watching over me along the way, both as teachers and substitute grand-parents. Tiya and Adam’s wedding is also the last one of a series I recently attended and filmed, simply entitled ‘3 Weddings’, and that will soon be uploaded in the video section of this blog. Before those come in, I thought about a couple of old wedding pictures I had, that would perfectly match the mood of the day in complete continuity. Continue reading
I guess that may come with the job description… As an ethnographer, I have to confess an absolute adoration for ethnographic movies. I would choose a Jean Rouch film over any Oscared documentary, anytime. I love that those films have – just like Cinema Vérité – this ‘’fly on the wall’’ approach. I love that they take the yellow brick road without being too sure of where it leads, and that the final destination aimed for is ‘’let’s-just-observe-and-deliver-the-thing-completely-raw-to-the-viewers’’.
There are many – many – things I remember from any ceremony I attended in O’Russei village, a.k.a one of my offices, a.k.a one of my fieldwork centres. The Eid El Fitr in autumn 2007 was no exception, and I have transcribed a few – very few – notes from it here. On that particular day though there was something beside the ritual itself that I remembered: an exhibition of simple family pictures on the walls of the village mosque. Continue reading
It is definitely about time to say good-bye to Du-Fin-Fond-Du-Grenier, the blog I started as a doctorate candidate, centuries ago. And the blog – just like the academic plan – has been getting dusty for years… So now seems to be the right time for a spring cleaning, to start over. When closing a blog can be the opportunity to find pleasure to write again in an other one. A different one. A more personal one. A one that will stand here, whether academia is in the corner or not, but certainly joy in the corner: images and the words. Continue reading
This gallery contains 44 photos.
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 … Continue reading
A Saeth / Po Couple. Continue reading
Aek Rangsi Mosque, Toulgnok Continue reading
Groom on the way to the wedding. Continue reading
The buffalo sacrifice (1, 2 & 3) Continue reading
SAIGON – La mosquée Continue reading
After the annual “doubt” moment, searching for a hiding moon, the word spread out on September 11: Ramadan would start on 13.09.07 this year, as it could be heard on TV and radio all through Cambodia in the Mufti Sos Kamry message.The occasion on this first eve for families in Chrok Romirt (Kompong Chhnang province) to light homes with candles. The opportunity for kids to run around, deliberating on the most beautiful illuminations. A few hours later, in the middle of the night, families would wake up for a last meal with the call from the mosque. A habit for a number of villagers whom, as blacksmiths, are used to nocturnal activities.
The Mawlid, or annual celebration of the anniversary of the respected ‘saint’ Imam San, was performed by his followers on Monday 3rd September 2007, on the top of Udong Mount – a former khmer capital – where the Imam San founded his community by the 19th century.
* First, you may want to check out Episode I.
So here I am, in Siem Reap… to work, as I’ll be giving a short talk on “Cambodian society” in situ, just minutes from now. But well, who said work and pleasure can’t be mixed??? I still have one more hour before the plane takes off, back to Phnom Penh. What the hell could I be doing in Siem Reap? Ideas? Well, one may come to mind… I take a look at my big fake luxury watch and run straight to the EFEO (Ecole Francaise D’Extreme Orient). I meet there with Christophe Pottier, an archaeologist, who is naturally much more speed than I am, even without the flight-hurry-schedule. And that’s a good thing because he goes straight to the point when I ask: ‘’ever heard of this mythical Cham inscription in Angkor Wat Chams so often talk about?’’
Always enjoyed to see how history is played… Chams have all kind of myths to justify their ancestrality in Cambodia. One illustration of this ‘anteriority to khmers’ in the country is the idea that Chams would be the ones who indeed built Angkor Wat. Proof : the inscription in cham which is supposed to be found on the temple walls. Except… I never found it. Maybe it didn’t even exist I thought. So I forgot about it. But recently the EFEO (Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient) in Paris contacts a few people and luckily I am in the list: “we have a problem Phnom Penh”, “It is a weird, weird inscription found on the Angkor site not really readable since it is in cham from cambodia”. “Emiko, you are going to like it!”… and did I liked it… MIRACLE !!!! Here comes the inscription that I have always been hearing so much from, and that I have been so much searching for : the mythical cham inscription from Angkor Wat. So, today, I went to one of my ‘offices’: a village where elders are often able to read the script and complete the very light transcription I am able to make on my own… It was amazing (yet not so surprising) to see the enthusiasm of everyone after the Friday prayer: it was as heavy as the air around us. It was a real event and the discutions were endless. “This is too big, we have to work on it again, more… And this year, 2425 buddhist era (=1881), what does this mean since Angkor is … much more older ???”. Want to know more ? Follow me next week as I will be in Siem Reap for another episode of ”A la poursuite de l’inscription chame”!
To be continued… Episode II
Phnom Penh, February 11, 2013, Emiko Stock.
* Originally very informally shared with a couple of friends over my personal FB page, 08/08/09.
Those little field-notes are reminiscences of the past blogs and shares. While they are not proud of their flaws, I thought they shouldn’t be punished for it. Hopefully you will forgive them to be just as they come, just as they will remain.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Click here to find the French and English abstracts of the Udaya 2009 article “Parce que Champa et Cambodge ne faisaient qu’un…Lorsque les esprits s’emmêlent pour tisser la trame d’une histoire passée sur le métier d’une ‘intégration’ présente” (~Inviting Champa, Welcoming Cambodia: Performing Ancient Spirits to Commemorate Past History and Present Integration).
Phnom Penh, February 10, 2013, Emiko Stock.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.