Friday, August 10, 2012
The 'Silver Pagoda' sits next to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. It is home to the 'Emerald Buddha' and is the pagoda where the King meets with monks and some Royal ceremonies are performed. The interior of the pagoda compound walls are covered with murals depicting stories from the Reamker, i.e. the Khmer version of the classic Indian epic the Ramayana. The murals stand over 3 and a half meters tall and stretch around 604 meters of wall. They were painted in 1903-1904 by a team of students working under the direction of artist Vichitre Chea and architect Oknha Tep Nimit Thneak. The murals are only partially protected from the elements by open cloisters that serve as galleries and have long shown signs of weathering and water damaged.
Yesterday The Cambodia Daily reported that a restoration project currently being conducted on the murals may actually be threatening their existence. ('Restoration Risks Destroying Palace Murals' The Cambodia Daily, August 9, 2012) According to the Daily, UNESCO sent a letter to the Palace in June expressing concerns about the restoration technique. Apparently concrete is being applied to the water damaged lower section which experts say will force moisture upward into the material underlying the murals, possibly destroying them entirely. According to the Daily, as of yesterday the restoration project continues unchanged and unabated.
I haven't been out to see the Ramayana frescoes in a couple of years and haven't seen the reported restoration project, but I have visited the frescoes many times over the years, taking lots of photos in the process. Most of the following photos were taken before 2009. This is what is under threat: