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Christa Neuenhofer | profile | all galleries >> The animist Phnong hill tribe in Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The animist Phnong hill tribe in Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Mondulkiri is Cambodia’s largest and also its most thinly populated eastern frontier province with only 40,000 inhabitants made mainly of hill tribes. The largest ethnic minority among them are the Phnong who live off the land, still practicing shifting cultivation (slash and burn). They plant rice, fruit trees, coffee, rubber and cashew nuts and hunt wild animals. - Although more and more houses are built in 'Khmer style', you can still find the traditional Phnong houses. In the houses there are big jars and traditional gongs. Jars and gongs are among the most valuable possessions of the ethnic minorities in Cambodia, both in traditional and spiritual as well as material terms.
The Phnong are believed to date back 2,000 years and are deeply animistic, believing that all things, animate and inanimate, have spirits. Therefore you can find magic poles in front of nearly every house, at every well and in the paddy fields that shall invite good spirits to protect the people, care for good luck and a good harvest and shall ward off evil spirits. Because the Phnongs believe in the power of the spirits they still sacrifice animals, either to appease angry spirits or to thank benevolent spirits for helping them (e.g. curing them from an illness or providing a good harvest.) The poles have got a decoration of bamboo fibres that have been dyed (formerly with blood, nowadays with red paint, because it lasts longer), a small slit drum to call the spirits, a small elephant head which symbolizes strength and can thus protect the people and their possessions and a small kind of basket, similar to the ones that are used for offerings. These are normally more or less the same items that can be found at houses and fields. At wells there are often small water buffaloes instead of elephant heads. Sometimes the poles can also have additional items as e.g. a small house.
Lady with traditional Phnong jewellery. Pu Trom, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Lady with traditional Phnong jewellery. Pu Trom, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
One of the last Phnong ladies with brass anklets on her legs. The Red Khmer forbade and destroyed these traditional rings.
One of the last Phnong ladies with brass anklets on her legs. The Red Khmer forbade and destroyed these traditional rings.
Old Phnong lady with traditional earrings. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Old Phnong lady with traditional earrings. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man in traditional clothes. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man in traditional clothes. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong people speaking a prayer before starting a ceremony. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong people speaking a prayer before starting a ceremony. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong playing the gongs during a ceremonial dance. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong playing the gongs during a ceremonial dance. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Ceremonial dance, imitating the sowing of rice. Phnong village Pu Tang, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Ceremonial dance, imitating the sowing of rice. Phnong village Pu Tang, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Many Phnong ladies like to smoke home-made cigars. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Many Phnong ladies like to smoke home-made cigars. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong men care for firewood. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong men care for firewood. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong lady weaving a traditional cloth. Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong lady weaving a traditional cloth. Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Traditional Phnong houses in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Traditional Phnong houses in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Traditional Phnong house in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Traditional Phnong house in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
In front of a traditional Phnong house. Pu Lang Village I, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
In front of a traditional Phnong house. Pu Lang Village I, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Traditional Phnong house in  Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Traditional Phnong house in Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong lady cutting a banana stem for pig feed. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong lady cutting a banana stem for pig feed. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Scaffolding for a traditional Phnong house. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Scaffolding for a traditional Phnong house. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Every one or two years a traditional Phnong house needs a new roof. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Every one or two years a traditional Phnong house needs a new roof. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Inside a traditional Phnong house. Pu Lang Village I, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Inside a traditional Phnong house. Pu Lang Village I, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Inside a traditional Phnong house. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Inside a traditional Phnong house. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man in his house in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man in his house in Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man taking a nap next to his jars with rice wine. Pu Tang village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man taking a nap next to his jars with rice wine. Pu Tang village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Signs of former sacrifices, jaw-bones of cows and buffaloes in a Phnong house. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Signs of former sacrifices, jaw-bones of cows and buffaloes in a Phnong house. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Grave of a male Phnong with jars for rice wine. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Grave of a male Phnong with jars for rice wine. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Grave of a female Phnong. Here predominate working utensils for a future life. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Grave of a female Phnong. Here predominate working utensils for a future life. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
House with a tall magic pole at its side. Pu Tang village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
House with a tall magic pole at its side. Pu Tang village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic pole with bamboo fibres, basket and small hut. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic pole with bamboo fibres, basket and small hut. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic pole with symbolic baskets for offerings. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic pole with symbolic baskets for offerings. Pu Tang Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Symbolic baskets for offerings for the spirits and elephant head. Phnong village Dak Dam, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Symbolic baskets for offerings for the spirits and elephant head. Phnong village Dak Dam, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Elephant`s head protecting a house. Pu Tang village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Elephant`s head protecting a house. Pu Tang village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic water buffalo at a well in Phnong village Dak Dam. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic water buffalo at a well in Phnong village Dak Dam. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Small magig slit drum at a Phnong well. Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Small magig slit drum at a Phnong well. Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Magic pole with red paint at the bamboo fibres. Phnong village Pu Lang II,  Modulkiri, Cambodia
Magic pole with red paint at the bamboo fibres. Phnong village Pu Lang II, Modulkiri, Cambodia
Offering of sweets for the young, or little spirit. Phnong village Srč Ampum, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Offering of sweets for the young, or little spirit. Phnong village Srč Ampum, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
 At a Phnong farm. The pig gets a shower. Pu Lang Village I, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
At a Phnong farm. The pig gets a shower. Pu Lang Village I, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Shifting cultivation. Paddy field where trees have been cut before. Phnong village Pu Lang II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Shifting cultivation. Paddy field where trees have been cut before. Phnong village Pu Lang II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Rice harvesting in Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Rice harvesting in Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong people harvest rice by collecting the grains from each single stalk without cutting the plants. Pu Lang Village II
Phnong people harvest rice by collecting the grains from each single stalk without cutting the plants. Pu Lang Village II
Phnong man harvesting rice. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong man harvesting rice. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong children in a paddy field. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong children in a paddy field. Pu Lang Village II, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong lady drying her rice. Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Phnong lady drying her rice. Dak Dam Village, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Young Phnong girls pounding rice. Dak Dam Village. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Young Phnong girls pounding rice. Dak Dam Village. Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Slash and burn for shifting cultivation. near Phnong village Pou Trou, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
Slash and burn for shifting cultivation. near Phnong village Pou Trou, Mondulkiri, Cambodia