Cambodia’s craftsmen and artisans have produced a highly unique and exquisitely Khmer form of arts and crafts. Taking home an artwork from Cambodia is like winning back a part of the Khmer culture legacy. Several of these goods are for purchase in local markets. You’ll need to switch to bigger stores or shops around the city for some niche items or high-end products. But Angkor Handicraft Association brings you these unique items in one place.
How Angkor Handicraft Association Started
Founded in 2011, the Angkor Handicraft Association is a not for profit business association. Based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the Association aims to help local artisans regain their competitive lead through Fair Trade. This is the only organization in Cambodia that is fully owned by the locals and selling the Khmer handicrafts. Providing aid to local artisans within the rural communities, AHA promotes and auctions their handicrafts within the AHA Fair Trade Village.
By linking the artisans to the local and international tourism sector and souvenir market AHA supports the artisans to achieve a long-term self-sustainable livelihood for themselves and their communities. Situated nearby to the city Centre, this organization is a 5-minute tuk-tuk ride from downtown. Angkor Handicraft Association (AHA) and its craft market is a no-frills market that connects local artisans to visitors. This means that all of the sellers at this market are the original creators of the products.
It was built to help these artisans fight against the mass-produced souvenirs, which helps them find their own market. This market stands as a stepping-stone to support these locals. Along with the market, customers can also shop at other places around Siem Reap. Moreover, they can look out for the Official Seal of Authenticity for locally produced products. Most of the time, you can find local artisans making the items right at the market. You can talk to them while they are creating their pieces, and find out more about their lives.
It is a novel way to shop for souvenirs, and know that the profit will go back to the creators. This is an accountable way of shopping for souvenirs, and an effective way of giving back to the community. AHA has a website that displace products, details of producers, and benefits when tourists purchase products directly.
Handicraft in Siem Reap
While tourism in Siem Reap has increased significantly travelers spending reaching $100 million in souvenirs. However, Siem Reap still remains one of Cambodia’s poorest regions. Most of Siem Reap state’s rural population lacks access to the traveler market.
The amount of imported souvenirs and machine-made replicas in Siem Reap forces hundreds of artisans to turn to farm and other activities for income. Approximately 80% of the souvenirs sold in Siem Reap are imported from neighboring regions. Travelers are often unable to identify authentic items from machine-made goods. To make matters even more confusing, local sellers encourage them by assuring them that they are authentic products.
AHA’s Mission & Vision
AHA has been the most authentic organization to support the development of local handicraft businesses. It also makes sure to strengthen the handicraft sector in Siem Reap province. Angkor Handicraft Association is working towards the vision of building a strong and competitively economical local handicraft sector in Cambodia.
AHA is Supporting Rural Artisans
Since 2011, AHA has been promoting the successful marketing of member’s products to establish business linkages in national and international markets. It also offers access to training and developing capability in sectors such as related business management, communications, networking, and export policies. AHA represents the handicraft sector in forums for private-public dialogue and articulates general hazards in Siem Reap’s handicraft areas.
It also identifies and actively develops new business opportunities for members, working closely with producers to meet the expectations of the customers. By supplying businesses and producers with the necessary tools, AHA certifies their goods and places. Ultimately, it makes it easier for visitors to recognize products that are made locally.
AHA assists GIZ-Regional Economic Development Program partners in promoting the development of the bamboo industry in one of Siem Reap province’s most remote districts. Development of the bamboo industry is of high relevance for job creation and poverty reduction, as well as for climate change issues.
AHA Fair Trade Village
The AHA Fair Trade Village seems to be the largest and only permanent commemorative market dedicated to displaying only traditional handicrafts produced domestically and other souvenir products produced in Siem Reap. It is also an easy way for visitors to ensure they buy local artisan goods, add to the wider local economy and help both urban and rural enterprises.
Cultural lines that differentiate one nation from another are fading. Software, knowledge and financial globalization has allowed developed and developing countries to transmit not just to their political and economic philosophies to developing countries but also their traditions and values. The Cambodian government has taken concerted diplomatic efforts to preserve the integrity of the conventional Khmer society, but there is a desire for trade among newer generations.
Given the popularity of Angkor ruins and other methods around the world, most contemporary Cambodian art is known as the style of engravings and bas-reliefs in temple hutches, varying from mystical and mythical themes to regular events. Surrealist spinning designs are popular, both concrete and abstract, from the Khmer phase right through until the present day.
Cambodia has rendered its priority to safeguard the past for future generations to maintain cultural heritage. Those hand-carved sculptures seen on several markets in Cambodia take hours of meticulous work to complete. Also, many carvers depend on their creations for existence, dedicating their entire lives to refining and perfecting their craft. Hence, Angkor Handicraft Association is a great initiative to back this cause.
If you don’t know where to go after visiting the association, check out our 25 things to do in Siem Reap here!