Cambodia’s history in the arts is bittersweet. During the five year rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, 90% of the artist and intellectual population was killed as a result of brutal and unfavourable communist policies. Anyone with an education was targeted by the Khmer Rouge.
The restoration of the arts took a few decades. It was tough to rebuild a cultural heritage of over a thousand years with such few people. The few artists that survived the Khmer Rouge regrouped and restored themselves, reestablishing the University of Fine Arts. In the 90’s, the newer generation too began expressing themselves through various art-based and performance forms, albeit modern ones. The generation gap between the older, surviving artist generation and the newer one created a gap in the development of Cambodian culture. The traditional arts could not pick up where they left off. But today, generations who grew hearing stories of the genocide display an awareness and empathy of the trauma in the work they produce.
Once seen as a stopover, Phnom Penh is shaking off that reputation and evolving into a dynamic destination of its own, propelled by a youthful, trend-setting population. Contemporary galleries, artist-in-residence programmes and hybrid live performance venues have been popping up in many corners. As a result, the arts scene in Phnom Penh – relatively small though it may be – is emerging as one of the region’s boldest and most intriguing.
Since the Meta House inception in 2007, we have hosted more than 10,000 events. Our on-line-archive features a selection of the best art works by local and foreign artists who have been working with us as well as photos, posters and flyers from past activities.