Travelling across Cambodia, scarecrows are everywhere. They’re called “Ting Mong” and are placed in front of houses to protect families against diseases and bad karma. They are most common in rural areas, where there is more space and more attachment to older traditions rooted in animist beliefs. In friendly competition, neighbors try to have the most stylish, flashiest, and scariest design. But since the pandemic started, there’s even more of them.
Ting Mong are more human-like than scarecrows in other countries and are meant to trick evil spirits that the place is being guarded. Through the years, they’ve also become a reflection of Cambodian culture, creativity, and humor.
While some are fashioned with a Spider-Man mask, sunglasses, counterfeit Louis Vuitton outfits, or Nike sneakers, others look menacing with a hoodie, fake machine guns, knives, and wooden sticks. Now, they wear medical face masks too.
Traditionally, the life-sized body of the Ting Mong was handmade using paper wrapped around a woven bamboo basket and personalized with a huge painted face. The bigger the scarecrow, the more frightening. Today, most are made of straw, with wooden or metal arms linked with thread, and a cardboard face with a drawing of eyes, nose, and mouth.
Photographer Greg Mo has captured more than 300 Ting Mong effigies around Siem Reap province and suburban parts of the capital Phnom Penh since March, as infections began to rise in the country, though confirmed cases are now relatively low compared to Southeast Asian neighbors.
Excited to show off their Ting Mong creations, owners readjusted the scarecrows before photos were taken and said that they were all for protection against the pandemic, shouting “Corona.”
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