Cambodian Living Arts believes that arts and cultural expression are essential to a thriving future for Cambodia. This month, we tell the story of An Raksmey, a culture and arts researcher.

An Raksmey is an independent researcher, working in culture and the arts. He also works for the Department of Culture and Fine Arts in Kampong Thom. His main personal project is the Facebook page Living with Heritage Project, which shares daily posts about Cambodia’s cultural and artistic heritage to more than 20,000 followers.

Raksmey’s background is in archaeology, which he studies at Phnom Penh’s Royal University of Fine Arts.

While studying for his thesis, he got his first real experience of cultural research, exploring Areak, a type of ceremonial music used to lure spirits to help people. He was inspired by the subject matter, but also learned about the challenges of independent research, in terms of raising a budget to cover his time in a small village in Kampong Thom province.

Raksmey later worked at a Japanese NGO in Siem Reap, dealing with education, community development and preservation of the Angkor site. He spent his weekends exploring the villages around Siem Reap and observing the traditional lifestyles.

He moved to Kampong Thom in 2015 to work for the Department of Culture and Fine Arts, specializing in the development of cultural research. He says, “Through these jobs, I fell more and more in love with culture and arts, and I wanted to compile the living heritage that I saw around me for the next generation.”

Nowadays, Raksmey continues to carry out his own research, but is limited by his budget and the time needed to travel to different provinces. He’s already feeling these pressures, telling us that, “elders in the villages that I’ve worked with are passing away one by one because of their age and sickness. I can’t always find the time to meet them and find out about their knowledges and experiences before it’s too late”.

Raksmey dreams of seeing his compiled research documents published and made available to the public. He wants to set up a small research foundation and build a research team who can help him to reach more places around Cambodia, in less time.

However, he is conscious of the need to do this job properly. “We have to strengthen our basic skills, and our understanding of what we want to research and why,” he says. “Without this, real work is not possible.”

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