By Sunitha Janamohanan
Bonn Phum, the Village Festival, now in its fifth year and attracting hordes of young Cambodians, took place from April 6 – 8 2018, in the grounds of the Kok Ampil pagoda. Founded by Lomorpich Rithy with her sister Lomokesorr and a few close friends in 2014 when she was a final-year university student, the festival has been tremendous in reviving traditional Cambodian culture and re-asserting the traditional practice of celebrations in pagodas leading up to the Cambodian New Year. Every year a different location is chosen — a pagoda with suitable character — and the three-day festival is built from scratch using as much as possible natural materials like bamboo, with their team of dedicated volunteers, the “lele” Bon Phum. The festival is the embodiment of the values of its founder: a commitment to the rich artistic history of Cambodia, ecological consciousness and social responsibility, national pride without being nationalistic, and a deep appreciation for tradition. But it’s also completely a festival for today’s generations, and a three-day long amazing party and exuberant good time.
Guest Contributor Sunitha Janamohanan has been working in the arts in Malaysia since 1999 and has been an arts manager, producer, curator, and heritage manager. Since 2015, she has been teaching in the Programme in Arts Management at LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. Her research interests include regional community or socially engaged arts practice, and how cultural policy is implemented – or not.