He’d been the cornerstone of encaustic cement tile-making in Cambodia for decades, but 78-year-old Heng Srun passed away suddenly in September 2018, casting uncertainty on the future of the craft.

Originally introduced to the Kingdom by the French protectorate, encaustic cement tile-making involves the manual pressing and colouring of tiles using mineral pigments poured into hand-welded stencils.

The tiles are known for their geometric patterns and durability, and are touted for becoming more attractive with age as they develop a smooth patina from wear. Nowadays production of such tiles is limited to a handful of workshops in Europe and a select few former colonies such as Vietnam, Morocco and Cambodia.

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Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon is a writer-at-large primarily covering the environment and the arts. Prior, he was a reporter at The Phnom Penh Post from July 2015 to May 2018. His article on the black-market sale of Cambodian manuscripts won the 2018 Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) award for excellence in reporting arts and culture.