via Reuters in the Bangkok Post, 04 Jan 2019: The listing of the Khon dances of Cambodia and Thailand are welcome, but the tradition still is in danger of dying out if new generations do not learn the craft.
Cambodia’s centuries-old tradition of masked dance was nearly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge’s “Killing Fields” regime, but a handful of artists managed to keep it alive and are now working to pass it along to a new generation.
Sun Rithy’s father and grandfather were both performers of the Lakhon Khol masked dance, but the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge — who scorned most art as decadent — banned its study when he was a child in the 1970s.
Now 48, Sun Rithy leads one of the last Lakhon Khol troupes in Cambodia, made up of about 20 performers and students aged six to 15. For him, teaching a new generation is a matter of survival for the tradition.
“I don’t want Lakhon Khol … to go extinct,” Sun Rithy told Reuters.
Lakhon Khol was recently listed by Unesco, the United Nations’ cultural agency, as intangible cultural heritage, along with neighbouring Thailand’s version of the dance, known as khon.