Cambodians often tell the younger generation, “never forget your living gods”, or in other words, never forget your parents. One young artist has used this message as inspiration to create a new t-shirt design to celebrate the 14-day Pchum Ben festival.
This limited-edition t-shirt depicts a young boy and girl kneeling, and paying respect to their parents. The artist also depicts traditional Cambodian rice cakes, a meal box, and a flower, to portray the traditional scene at pagodas for important religious ceremonies such as Pchum Ben festival. The family also wears customary outfits from the King Sisowath era. The design is in cartoon form to appeal to the younger generation, and hopefully make them pay more attention to the message behind the picture.
The 26-year-old artist Neang Ratsambath, who creates artwork for Domnork Souvenir Shop, says the idea behind his design is a family reunion on the occasion of Pchum Ben festival.
“According to Khmer tradition, Pchum Ben is an opportunity to reunite families, and for them to do good deeds together. Cambodians traditionally go to the pagoda and pray for their dead relatives on Pchum Ben Day. However, I also want to pay respect to our living relatives, in particular our parents who we often call living gods, which is why I settled for this design,” says Ratsambath.
Cooking and giving alms during the Pchum Ben festival are the common traditions for Cambodian people. However, celebrating gratitude for one’s parents is also considered a wonderful celebration of life.
“In my design, the two children are giving alms to their parents. I want this to inspire and show people that they should be doing good deeds, no matter how old they are,” he says.
Koem Rathbormey, manager and co-founder of Domnork, says the majority of people who have been buying the t-shirts are young people, and families who want to wear matching t-shirts for this year’s Pchum Ben festival.
“Domnork always wants to bring something new and unique to our customers, especially during all of our major festivals, to showcase our cultural heritage and traditions. At first Domnork did not create any seasonal products, but we soon realised that we needed something special for our national festivals,” says Rathbormey.
“As for the paintings for Pchum Ben, our team has taken great care in choosing the final pieces, as we want the viewers to understand the message behind the designs at first glance,” he adds.
Rathbormey also says that the t-shirt design in question, depicting the story of Pchum Ben, gives people a more modern option to dress appropriately for the current festival season. He added that there has been a lot of support for limited-edition products recently, and Domnork’s customers are always eager to buy seasonal items.
Ratsambath says that he spent around a month coming up with the design idea for Pchum Ben’s t-shirt project, and almost two weeks more to complete it. He adds that every time he creates a new product, he loves seeing his work in action.
“I feel very happy when I go out and see other people wearing t-shirts or using items that have my work on them. As the creator of the artwork, I am very proud of myself that my work has received a lot of recognition,” says Ratsambath.
The self-taught artist has been learning to draw digitally since 2016. He has been an artist for Domnork for the past two years, and is continuing research into the history of ancient Khmer art and traditions for inspiration and future designs.
If you are looking for local, unique products that incorporate Khmer art and tradition, such as accessories, furniture, bags and t-shirts, they are on sale at Domnork for direct purchase, online purchase, and special orders.