“People and Earth”

Opening reception, March 7, 2000



The Neak Ta is the most omnipresent figure of the divinities which populate the supernatural world of the Cambodian countryside. It is the only figure of this supernatural pantheon to be materially represented. Small huts for the Neak Ta are found throughout the landscape and every village regards the Neak Ta as tutelary gods. In this exhibition, Dr. Ang Choulean present a morphological analysis of the various forms which the Neak Ta takes, leaving aside other complex issues regarding its role in village life.

The Neak Ta is represented sometimes as a figure and sometimes as an amorphous object without regular contour (a stone, a termite hill, a ruined stupa). Some representations fuse the amorphous and the figurative, thus conveying the essence of the Neak Ta as an ancestor inextricably bound to the soil. The fertility of the soil, represented on the model of human sexuality, is clearly present here since for the village to exist, an ancestor had to clear the wild land, breaking open its soil and seeding it for the first time. The Neak Ta is this fertile village space condensed into a object of worship.

The photographs in the exhibition are arranged by Dr. Ang to reflect a process of thinking about the forms of the Neak Ta. Their captions read as a continuous narrative beginning with the first photograph. We hope that this exhibition asserts the importance of studying and understanding local belief and thought systems on their own terms.