March 7, 2000
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.
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
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.