Published on : Wednesday, February 12, 2014
A yak – one of the fearsome giants of Thai myth, and a popular character from the kingdom’s ancient Khon masked dances, recently took his place among other great characters in much a colder land than old Siam. Despite being crafted from snow and sitting in freezing temperatures, the giant sculpture kept his Thai smile and impressed visitors to the Tromsø International Snow Festival, held in Norway from 28 January to 1 February, 2014.
The giant’s creators were three renowned Thai ice sculptors who made up one of five teams of 14 professional sculptors from nations including Norway, Russia, Germany and Italy. These teams were all invited to exhibit their work in the lovely square near the Nestranda in Tromsø to mark the inaugural Tromsø International Snow Festival. Among those who saw the displays, there was little doubt that the five masterpieces set a standard which will be challenging to beat in the years to come.
The four-day snow festival was organised by the Thai Tromsø Forening in conjunction with the Royal Thai Embassy in Oslo, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Stockholm Office, Thai Airways International’s Stockholm Office and The Norwegian Barents Secretariat. This year’s event was a follow up to last year’s well-received “Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival”, held from 15-23 February, 2013, which was organised by the Thai Tromsø Forening to commemorate the close relations between the Kingdoms of Norway and Thailand.
Mrs. Nalinee Pananon, Director of TAT Stockholm Office said, “We’re supporting this festival as a way of showing off some evocative elements of Thai culture to other nations. This is a part of our Thainess meets the world tourism activities. The elaborate snow sculpture – a three- metre high head of the mystical Thai giant or Yak was expertly carved by our team of three professional ice sculptors. Its Eastern elements really stood out in this cold northern region and attracted massive interest from locals, tourists and visiting members of the media.”
The Yak ice sculpture was made by Poottawong Poonna, from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Itthipol Luangthep from the Dusit Thani Bangkok and Chettha Kasena, who works as an independent ice sculptor.
The Thai giant sculpture was joined by four other ice sculptures that represented various aspects of their creators’ cultures – Pomor Saga by the Russian team, Bless the Fuc…snow from the local Norwegian sculptors, Smile, a creation from the German sculptors and The Strange Rendezvous from the Italian team. Each of the teams had four days to make these pieces of art, which had to be completed by the final day of the festival (1 February, 2014).
As well as the sculptures, the four-day festival also saw the hosting of a snow carving workshop for 33 kindergarten children from the area. And, to bring a little Thai sunshine to the frosty fun, there were also Thai classical dance performances, as well as fruit and vegetable carving shows by the Thai community in Tromsø.
The Tromsø International Snow Festival was part of the city’s popular annual Northern Lights Festival, held this year from 25 January to 2 February. A large number of international visitors came to enjoy the fun and there is no doubt that the skills of the artists and the giant yak sculpture they created will have fostered a greater awareness of Thailand’s art and culture in everyone who came along.