The NCKCR is a non-profit and non-governmental organization aiming to rediscover and reintroduce Khmer ancestral pottery techniques and support the development of contemporary Khmer ceramic art. In the process, NCKCR creates economic opportunities, helping to decrease poverty in Cambodia.
Serge Rega established NCKCR in Siem Reap-Angkor, renowned for the Angkor temples. Tourists abound, creating substantial incomes, but paradoxically Siem Reap remains one of the poorer provinces of Cambodia. Siem Reap is emerging as a developed city, but geographically, poverty is displaced by about only 2 kilometers.
NCKCR is involved in Vocational training, which helps the poor rural population and will decrease poverty. Training is provided free of charge. Students are given an allowance to compensate for ‘lost’ time, which would otherwise be spent earning a living. Vocational training includes working with clay, but also technical skills, such as building a potter’s wheel, a kiln, tools etc. A student finishing a vocational training session with NCKCR must be able to establish his/her own studio. After training, students may be hired by NCKCR, or NCKCR may provide help to the young potter to install a studio.
Serge Rega says “rural workshops will help the poor and will allow women to express themselves, play a role in society and become participants in an economic activity”. The first rural workshop will be installed in August 2007 in Koh Ker (80 km north-east of Siem Reap) in collaboration with Heritage Watch NGO. A second rural workshop will be installed in May 2008 in Pouk Area, 30 km west of Siem Reap. Rural studios will provide economic assistance for poor peoples but will also play a role in the prevention of looting of Khmer Archaeological sites.
Research on Khmer Antique glazing and techniques – Antique Khmer ceramics are renowned, but the technology was lost during the recent terrible upheavals in Cambodia. NCKCR has sought to rediscover this technology, researching antique Khmer glazing, bisque, kilns, potters language etc. NCKCR wants to soon start the construction of an antique Khmer kiln (Dragon kiln). A first firing is scheduled for December 2007-January 2008. It will be the first time in 500 years such a kiln will be fired in Cambodia – a 10 day and night event. We will make this an international event, in order to facilitate exchange with potters from all around the world. For many years international potters have had exchanges with each other. Khmer potters rarely have the opportunity to travel outside of Cambodia to meet their peers, so this meeting will be held in Cambodia at the NCKCR. The kiln will allow us to fire our reconstituted antique Khmer glaze under the same conditions that it was made in Angkor. Such a kiln is a major tool in the research of antique Khmer techniques.
Revival of contemporary Khmer Ceramic Arts – NCKCR has rediscovered ancestral techniques, which it now teaches. When this knowledge is established, students are encouraged to develop contemporary Khmer ceramic art, with the support of a French volunteer designer. Contemporary Khmer ceramic art consists of stoneware, salt-glazed wares and raku. Different technologies will be used in the future.
Fight against illicit trade of Khmer Antiques – Looting of archaeological evidence is catastrophic for the understanding of our past, our roots. Looting of antiques include two actors: the looter of the archaeological site trying to support his family, and the buyer. If NCKCR can offer the buyer high quality Khmer antique replicas, it can help to avoid the purchase of originals. Looting of archeological sites destroys potential income from tourism in rural areas, while it’s a unsustainable source of income for poorer peoples. Serge says “Installation of rural workshops will offer a chance to get sustainable money incomes for populations”.
The goal of self-financing will ensure the sustainability and independence of NCKCR – NCKCR is not a cursory project – it’s aim is the long-term promotion of Khmer ceramics. This includes establishing a Khmer potter’s library with books translated into Khmer language, workshops, raw material furniture, research etc. In order to reach this goal, NCKCR’s target is to be self-supporting within two years,