Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bruno goes in-depth

Bruno Bruguier presents the 1st of his series of archaeological guidebooks of Cambodia
Okay so it was in French and I hardly understood a word, apart from the names of the Cambodian temples, but Bruno Bruguier's presentation of his latest work, the first in a series of six archaeological guidebooks on Cambodia that he hopes to publish, was well attended by the Fracophiles in the capital at the French Cultural Center earlier tonight. The 266-page book titled Phnom Penh and the Southern Provinces highlights the main ancient temple sites in the bottom half of the country to an in-depth level like never before, using recent photos and maps, alongside archive photos and drawings from the EFEO vaults as Bruno happens to work for the organization that has done so much to rescue and restore Cambodia's Angkorean heritage. Co-authored with his wife Juliette Lacroix, it's the first in a series of six they have written, though funding has been a tough nut to crack and with the help of Reyum, 3,000 copies have been produced. In front of such luminaries as Ang Choulean and Helen Jarvis, Bruno explained his approach to the research and some of his findings for half an hour before fielding questions from the audience. The first book concentrates on well-known temple sites such as Phnom Chisor, Tonle Bati, Phnom Bayang, Phnom Da, Ba Phnom and the cave temples of Kampot, but also introduces the little known sites at Prasat Chea Hao and Prasat Bassac in Svay Rieng. Funding permitting, he is looking to release the following titles in the future: Tonle Sap Basin and Sambor Prei Kuk; Banteay Chhmar and the Western Provinces; Kompong Cham and the Mekong Basin; Koh Ker & Preah Vihear - the Northern Provinces; Around Angkor.
Bruno takes time out to dedicate a copy of his new book

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Treasure trove of the South

The front cover of Bruno Bruguier's archaeological guidebook
Bruno Bruguier handed me a mint copy of the brand new archaeological guidebook to Cambodia, volume 1, and titled Phnom Penh and the Southern Provinces, fresh from the first print-run tonight and its an absolute gem for temple-enthusiasts like myself. 266 pages, packed full of well-researched text and 236 photos, drawings or maps. It's a treasure trove of detail - the biggest drawback being that it's all in the French language, which I am even worse at than the Khmer language. Tomorrow night, Bruno will give a presentation about the book and his research work on the temples of Cambodia at the French Cultural Center at 6.30pm, in French and Khmer, and the book will be on sale, published by Reyum, for the first time. Co-authored with Juliette Lacroix, it will retail at around $15. He's already penned another five manuscripts for the remainder of the temples in Cambodia and is looking for funding to publish all of his works, even better would be to get them published in English too, and considerably open up the audience for his books. Working for EFEO has given Bruno access to a wealth of historical research, photographs and maps and he uses them wisely in his new book to provide a 'must have' tome for any self-respecting temple-hunter, even if they can't read or speak French like me. I had dinner with Bruno at Comme a la Maison tonight, accompanied by an old friend of mine, Cristiano, a fellow temple-hunter from Kompong Thom and two members of a French television film crew who are following Bruno in his work as part of a documentary on French-influenced cultural sites in SEAsia. If I was ever to throw a dinner party then Bruno and Cristiano would be on my guest-list - I could talk about Khmer temples all night long! Fortunately tonight, my fellow diners did me the honour of conducting most of the conversation in English.
An impression of a cave temple at Phnom Khyang by Henri Parmentier, from the EFEO archives dated 1927. I visited this cave temple just a few weeks ago.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Book a night with Bruguier

This Thursday (29th January) at 6.30pm, I urge you to get along to a talk by Bruno Bruguier (above) called The Archaeological Sites of Southern Cambodia and which will be held at the cinema of the French Cultural Center on Street 218 - but please note, the talk will be in French and Khmer. Bruno is the man behind the excellent Carte Archéologique du Cambodge maps and after meeting Bruno a couple of months ago, I'm convinced his talk will be as enthusiastic and lively as the man himself. His presentation will be to introduce a new book he is publishing about the ancient archaeological sites in the southern half of the country. There is a downside, the book is only in French, as is the talk which will also be in Khmer for the benefit of locals, though Bruno would be happy to hear from anyone with the means to publish his book in English.
Bruno began his amazing project to map and record all of Cambodia's archaeological sites, before, during and after the Angkorean period, in 1990 and is still going. Funds have dried up to expand the database as Bruno would like, so he's also open to offers for funding to continue this invaluable work. He's registered over 4,000 sites, has another 1,000 that need to be finalized before they can be added to the maps and database and he knows there are still areas like the Cardamoms and Svay Rieng that have yet to be properly explored and documented. He hasn't done it alone of course, a small team has worked with him over the years to locate the main sites and then to widen the search on the ground with the help of local villagers. The maps themselves are a collaboration between EFEO (The French Institue of Oriental Studies) for whom Bruno works, when he's not teaching Khmer history at the Sorbonne in Paris, and the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts. The maps have been published in both French and Khmer and are for sale at the National Museum and the French Cultural Center for $3 each. A corresponding interactive website, Carte Interactive des Sites Archéologiques Khmers (CISARK) with photos and additional information can be found here and though its mostly in French, Bruno is already expanding the languages to include English, Khmer and Japanese. As an additional off-shoot of the project, Bruno and his wife have written six manuscripts of the major temples and archeological sites around Cambodia, on a regional basis. The first of those manuscripts, Southern Cambodia, has now been published by Reyum with many photographs and maps and will be available on Thursday for the first time.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009


Dengue Fever - Sleepwalking Through The Mekong
As befits a new year, January is looking like it's going to be a busy month, for me personally at work as well as in my leisure time. I should be heading to Siem Reap next weekend and further afield later in the month. I've promised myself to get my arse back onto the football field. And there's a smattering of documentaries and events that I'd love to attend too. Won't be able to fit all of them in but I'll give it a good go.
More on the events. Meta House kicked it off with an exhibition by Srey Bandol last night, and tonight, there's another Meta exclusive, with acclaimed photographer Tim Page holding court on the upper floor with his photos, some chat, a documentary and more besides. It starts at 6pm and I recommend you get along. During the rest of the month, Meta House is chockablock full of goodies worth seeing. The pick of the bunch for me is on Tuesday 20th when director John Pirrozi will present his rockumentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong as it follows Los Angeles band Dengue Fever on a journey to Cambodia to perform 60s and 70s Cambodian rock n' roll in the country where it was created and very nearly destroyed. The homecoming of singer Chhom Nimol adds an extra touch to proceedings. Well worth noting your diary for this event. Also to watch out for is the excellent New Year Baby documentary from Socheata Poeuv on Sunday 11th, showing first in Khmer and then in English. An evening with Cambodian Living Arts on Friday 30th is also in my diary. As well as live music, The Flute Player telling the compelling story of Arn Chorn-Pond will be shown. Other events that will be covered during January include the Khmer Rouge legacy, UXO, garment factory workers, human rights, BBC World Trust, the environment in Cambodia and much more. It really is an action-packed month for Meta House.
One event that I'm ultra keen to attend is the talk by Bruno Bruguier on Thursday 29th at 6.30pm called The Archaeological Sites of Southern Cambodia which will be held at the cinema of the French Cultural Center on Street 218. I met Bruno a few weeks ago and his presentation will be to introduce a new book he is publishing about the ancient archaeological sites in the southern half of the country. There is a downside, the book is only in French, but the talk will also be in Khmer and English. Bruno is an enthusiast for his subject and I know his talk will be well worth attending.
Link: Sleepwalking.

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