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Resources > Collections > Artist Sovanna Phum Art Association

Sovanna Phum Art Association

Sovanna Phum Art Association is a shadow puppet theatre company based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sovanna Phum, which means ‘Golden Village’ in Khmer, was founded in 1993 by self-taught puppet maker Mann Kosal and French circus performer Delphine Kasam. The group performs two forms of traditional shadow puppetry, Sbek Thom and Sbek Touch. They also conduct regular training and education programmes on shadow puppet making and performing. 

A tradition from the 7th century, shadow puppet theatre was deemed a prestigious practice in Cambodia and was designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2005. A typical performance consists of several puppet masters who control the puppets with carefully practised choreographies accompanied by music. The puppets’ shadows appear as they are lit behind a screen. The puppet figure is made by cutting, dyeing, and carving cowhide. Stories performed in Cambodian shadow puppetry typically present scenes from the Reamker, the Khmer equivalent of the Ramayana, and male actors perform all roles within the play.

Sovanna Phum mainly performs and conducts puppetry courses in their 80-seated theatre in Phnom Penh. In addition, they have also collaborated with several NGOs to perform small shadow puppet performances in villages across Cambodia to raise awareness of public health issues, such as general hygiene in the community and the dangers of illegal drug abuse

As of June 2020, due to an increasing lack of interest in the traditional arts of Cambodian puppetry and the global pandemic – which adversely impacted the entertainment and tourism industries—Sovana Phum ceased its operations. The group’s puppet collection has been donated to the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh.