Founded in a private home in 2007, Meta House has become a household name for those looking to mingle with artists and free thinkers in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh cultural centre and art space Meta House is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a series of parties this weekend featuring DJs and artists from Cambodia and further afield.
Since its inception in 2007, Meta House has established itself as a haven for the city’s creatives looking to find documentaries, art and performances of all breeds.
“We started as a small community centre in 2007 in my private house,” founder Nicolaus Mesterharm says. “That was with zero funding, lots of energy and motivation, no partners within the country – the art scene at this point had only just started.”
Mesterharm says that, at the time, local filmmakers and artists lacked a venue to exhibit their work or connect with other artists. Meta House, founded on the ideal of community-centred art, filled that void.
“In the first three years, we developed it in my own house until my neighbours complained,” he said. “The setup of the place wasn’t sufficient any more to keep up with the large influx of people.” In 2010, Meta House moved to its current location on busy Sothearos Boulevard.
Mesterharm and company have often expanded their work to include social endeavours such as the Courageous Turtle, a play funded by the German government that seeks to educate young Cambodians about the Khmer Rouge era.
But he says that there is much work to be done in Cambodia if it is to have the art scene it deserves.
“In the moment, the problem I see and that the local artists are facing is that they simply don’t earn enough,” Mesterharm says. “There’s no state funding, no local collectors, no commercial galleries, no local arts markets.
“In order to grow, there’s a need for better education, there’s a need for state funding. These are things that we are trying to actually do, looking forward with the government and in cooperation with other organisations.”