Exhibition celebrates history of Czech, Cambodian relations

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Then Prince Norodom Sihanouk (back row, fifth from right) and Czechoslovakian President Antonin Novotny (third from right) pose with Cambodian Royal Ballet performers in Cambodia in January 1963. Czech News Agency

Currently hanging on the walls of the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh are rare black and white photographs of Cambodian royalty with Czech leaders, depicting the history of relations between the two countries.

One of the photos, taken in January 1963, shows then Prince Norodom Sihanouk with Cambodian Royal Ballet performers in honour of the visit of Czechoslovakian President Antonin Novotny to Cambodia.

His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni is fluent in Czech having spent most of his childhood in Prague where he studied classical dance and music at the Academy of Performing Arts.

Another interesting photo that illustrates the cultural relationship between the Czech Republic and Cambodia depicts President Novotny congratulating Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, daughter of then Prince Norodom Sihanouk, for her leading role in a Royal Ballet performance.

The photos are part of exhibit Czech Republic & Kingdom of Cambodia – Ties in Time, which opened on Thursday in a ceremony presided over by Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona and Charge d´Affaires of the Czech Republic to the Kingdom of Cambodia Vlastimil Tesar.

“The exhibition focuses on relations and cooperation between our countries. Its purpose is not only to display precious memorabilia from the 1960s and 1980s between Cambodia and Czechoslovakia but also to revive the memory of the past verities to the next generations,” said Sackona.

Tesar said the Czech Republic has maintained ties with Cambodia for 63 years.

“We focused on selecting certain interesting fragments related to political, economic and cultural events which have significantly influenced bilateral ties between our countries.

“The offered collection of photographs and facsimile, which you will be able to see, comes mainly from the collections of the archives of the Office of the Czech President, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Czech News Agency database,” he said.

Besides the black and white photographs, among the 36 frames featured in the exhibition are snapshots of Phnom Penh, photos of the past and recent events, as well as facsimile and original documents that enables visitors to catch a glimpse of the history of relations between the countries.

“Part of the exhibition is devoted to a concrete example of cooperation between experts of both countries in the period shortly after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

“The living Czech participant of this cooperation in the forestry industry kindly provided for this occasion a set of original documents and his photographs, which illustrate Cambodia at that time,” said Tesar.

“An exhibition like this can look back into the past. However, the past is just a springboard for a common future that we want to focus on. And we, Czechs, who live and work in Cambodia, we know well that Cambodia is a country of friendly people.”

Sackona also highlighted cultural relations and cooperation evident between the two countries between the 1960s and the 1980s, as well as between the 2000s and the 2010s.

“During this period, the Czech Republic took part in the restoration and preservation of Cambodian cultural heritage at Angkor through the provision of training on preservation techniques to technical personnel of the Apsara National Authority. They also helped with the restoration project of lion and elephant statues at Phimeanakas temple.

“Also, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts used to collaborate with Czech partners to organise exhibitions and to produce films in Cambodia,” she added.

The Czech Republic & Kingdom of Cambodia – Ties in Time exhibition is being held at National Museum of Cambodia on Street 13 (Preah Ang Eng) in Phnom Penh.

The exhibition is open to the public until October 31.