The New Airport’s 4-Face Brahma to Welcome Tourists from all Directions

Workers finish work on the top part of the copper sculpture of Brahma that will be on display at the new Siem Reap City airport. Photo provided by Ly Rasmey

SIEM REAP — At the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport—the new airport of Siem Reap province located about 50 kilometers from Siem Reap City and whose official opening is scheduled for October 2023—a large, intricately designed statue of the four-faced Brahma made of copper will be put on display to welcome visitors.

Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, explained what prompted the authorities to display a statue of Brahma at the airport and the challenges that creating a statue of this size has presented.

From left, Ly Rasmey, secretary of state for the Ministry of Land Management, Ith Sophea, sculptor and coppersmith based in Siem Reap, and a third member of their team pose with one segment of the statue before it is assembled. Photo provided.

Isa Rohany: The copper sculpture of Brahma has attracted a great deal of attention. As I was informed, you are the person behind this project. So, why was a depiction of Brahma chosen?

Ly Rasmey: After the plan was approved by the committee concerned, the four-faced Brahma was chosen since this religious figure represents the “four sublime states” [compassion, kindness, sympathy and equanimity]. Since the statue is positioned in the middle of the new airport, the four faces also present themselves as a sign of welcome to all tourists from all four directions. At the same time, the statue also helps preserve the cultural heritage as the four-faced sculpture of Brahma can be seen at the temple of Bayon, Ta Prohm and many others. Thirdly, many sculptures of the four-faced Brahma are made with lesser attention to the intricate details as those seen on the ancient monuments. That is why we try to make this one as intricate as possible by including every detail provided. Fourth, it is also a legacy to the future generations.

Workers finish work on the top part of the copper sculpture of Brahma that will be on display at the new Siem Reap City airport. Photo provided.

Isa Rohany: Has such a sculpture been made this way before?

Ly Rasmey: Most of the time, the sculptures of Brahma were made with the absence of the top part. The top part consisted of three layers of lotus flowers. Over time, the original sculptures at temples fell down as this sharp end is easily damaged. Afterward, people usually reconstructed the statue without the top part. Because of this, we try to bring back every original design whenever possible. At the four lower levels, we have displayed devas in “sampeah” position. Nowadays, this design is not always included. Sometimes, sculptors display devas, sometimes they display garudas instead.​ Other detailed designs have also been added. We tried to incorporate as much original designs as possible.

Isa Rohany: How did you come up with the design?

Ly Rasmey: Actually, I got the design from the Bayon temple. However, we can also see a similar statue at the temple of Ta Prohm. I chose this facial expression from the entrance of a gopura in front of the Bayon temple. The original ancient statue was very well sculpted.

Isa Rohany: What is the dimension of the statue?

Ly Rasmey: The height is seven meters and it weighs around six tons. It is being created locally. We watched copper statues recently created in the province of Sihanoukville…[W]e cooperate with experts in Siem Reap and everything is done here.

A digital representation of the Brahma statue at the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport. Photo provided

Isa Rohany: With its size, are there difficulties?

Ly Rasmey: Yes, there are difficulties. First, the statue is large. Second, there are a lot of intricate parts that demand their own moulds. Third, when we install them together, copper will naturally shift a little bit. That is why we have to reheat many times so that the casted copper parts fit together. Inside, there is also steel reinforcement. At this point, it is already 85 percent completed. We hope to finish [the statue] in August. We will inaugurate the statue with the opening of the airport. Through elaborate religious events, the statue will become worthy of being sacred.

This interview conducted in Khmer on July 29, 2023, for ThmeyThmey News was translated by Ky Chamna for Cambodianess.

To read the article in Khmer, click here.

To read more on Ith Sophea, the sculptor and coppersmith, click here.

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