No question, it's an attention-grabbing photo: a mild-faced ox stares
into the camera, its nose encased in a woven muzzle. Does it bite?
Could this be the original Mad Cow of disease fame? In fact, the muzzle
is a gadget devised by Cambodian farmers to keep the ox from eating
grain intended for humans. It's one of 50 everyday tools to be featured
in a new show that opens this afternoon at 4 at the Reyum Gallery,
No 47 St 178, and runs through May.
Ingrid Muan, co-director of the gallery, said the exhibit began as
a project for archaeology students at the Royal University of Fine
Arts. The idea she said, was to examine tools commonly used in the
countryside to see how they are made, how they are used and how they
are changing as society modernizes. "We wanted to trace what
things go away, and what things stay, and why," Muan said.
One example is the banana leaf she said. For generations, it has
been used in scores of ways to prepare and wrap food, but it is increasingly
being replaced by plastic. One popular snack, sticky rice wrapped
around bananas or pork, used to be wrapped in banana leaves and tied
with vines before being boiled for three hours. As plastic became
cheap and available, vendors experimented with wrapping the snacks
in plastic, but discovered they didn't taste as good as those boiled
in banana leaves. Today they are commonly wrapped in banana leaves
but tied with nylon ties, which are easier to find in the city than
The exhibit includes dozens of items, from palm juice containers
to hand scarecrows, cowbells to fish floats, shoulder harnesses and
rice threshers. Several are explored in great detail, tracing the
evolution of technology; a Khmer/English catalog is available for
The exhibit is free and open to the public from 8 am to 6 PM daily.
It is funded by grants from the Japan Foundation, the Kasumisou Foundation,
and the Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation.