Looking for Kbach

Up close at kbach carved in stone at Banteay Srei - Angkor, Siem Reap

Up close at kbach carved in stone at Banteay Srei – Angkor, Siem Reap

Kbach is an art of decorative ornamentation ubiquitous in Cambodian visual culture. It consists of the layering and repetition of motifs such as leaves, flames, shells, and other images. Various kbach designs can be found all over religious and government building, folk crafts, furniture, dance costumes, masks, musical instruments and other works of art. The kbach work on the Banteay Srei temple at Angkor is particularly well known for its elaborate detail. These patterns are the basis of traditional Cambodian art, and according to Ingrid Muan and Daravuth Ly, they serve as “a way of thinking form.”

Traditionally, the art of kbach was passed on through oral instruction and training from teacher to student. Because it was an oral tradition, documentation about the art form is not in wide supply. However, the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture did release a tome of a beautifully bound publication on kbach in 2005, entitled, Kbach: A Study of Khmer Ornament. The publication was also paired with an exhibition  that opened at Reyum’s gallery in the heart of Phnom Penh’s art district during the spring of the same year.

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