While Cambodia has made good progress in improving the lives of citizens over the past 10 years, it is still a nation of people who are struggling. According to the World Bank, 6.9 million Cambodians live on less than $1.25 per day per person, and 8.4 million live on less than $2.3. That’s why it was engouraging to visit the Artisans Angkor on our last day in Siem Reap.
Artisans Angkor is a Cambodian social enterprise that creates job opportunities for young people living in rural areas. Youth are given skills in tradition Khmer craftmanship, such as stone and wood carving, silk painting, lacquering, and silver plating.
The concept began in the early 1990s, and received help from the European Union to implement. Today there are now 42 workshops in Siem Reap province that employ 1300 people, including 900 artists, making it the largest employer in the province.
In Siem Reap a workshop is attached to the main store. The public is allowed to walk through, and we took advantage to watch the artists at work.
A free tour guide showed us around, and we saw artists creating beautiful pieces. You were also able to try your own hand at different crafts such as wood or stone carving.
It was interesting to find out that stone carving was easier than wood carving! With wood, you need to follow the grain, so you are restricted in how you create.
After visiting the workshop, we headed to the store to look at the finished products. What I wouldn’t do if I had a million dollars in that store! As it was, we bought a small lacquered painting of Sokrip, a character from an epic Cambodian poem called the Reamker that is based on the Hindu poem, Ramayana. It will remind us of the dancing we saw in Phnom Penh!