As the sun rises, a family in Kandal province are already busy making large puppets named Ting Mong in their workshop on the ground floor of their wooden house.
Unlike the traditional Ting Mong, famous for its ugly face that reportedly makes children cry, Hak Heng’s puppets made in his workshop have been upgraded to look as beautiful as a celebrity.
Having been making Ting Mong for nearly three decades, Heng describes how unpleasant it was when he saw the traditional version of the puppet for the first time.
“When I did not know how to make a Ting Mong, I felt scared when I saw them. I would turn my head away to avoid seeing those ugly faces. I’d try to hide my feeling and dared not tell the other Ting Mong makers that their work was horrible to look at,” the 58-year-old says.
After seeing many unsightly puppets, Heng learned how to make the puppet in a more pleasant form so that his children could also play with them.
“I was curious how it was made and why it had to be ugly like that. I also wanted to make it as a toy for my children. When I started to make the big puppet, the result came out nicely and I kept doing it until today,” he says.
The word Ting Mong in Khmer is used to represent both a scarecrow on a farm, as well as a big dancing puppet that collects donations.