Hand-painted signs of Kratie, Cambodia

Hand-painted signs in Cambodia are a characteristic feature of the country’s streetscape but, like elsewhere in the world, they are becoming increasingly rare

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Their charming and quirky nature soon captivated me, resulting in a book dedicated to those in the North Eastern province of Kratie, my home for two years.

Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie tells the story of these signs and their makers, one that is inseparable from events in Cambodia over the last 40 years. The infamous Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s crushed both art and commerce, the two spheres of activity straddled by these signs. The medium then flourished in the 1990s and 2000s as amateurs and professionals alike once again put brush to tin. However, the form is now in decline with access to technology swinging the balance in favour of printed formats.

The painted signs are not only visually intriguing, they also provide insights into Cambodia’s culture and history. Those promoting weapons amnesties remind us of the country’s vuilent recent past, while those for beauty salons offering skin-whitening services highlight difference in perceptions of beauty. These observations are explored in the book, which is a tribute to Cambodia, its hand-painted signs and the people who paint them. Those shared here include some examples from the book and some exclusive to Monograph.

Sam Roberts