Feeding both the stomach and the soul

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Artist Sophy Phal was one of the first Pancart participants. Sam Walker

Feeding both the stomach and the soul

Dutch expat’s monthly Pancart events see a diverse range of people get together to talk art and eat pancakes

Friendly, food-loving and not afraid to experiment with alternative lifestyles: a new artistic venture in Siem Reap is confirming Dutch national stereotypes in the best possible way.

Pancart, founded by Dutchman Martin Hablitzel, is a unique monthly event, which aims to bring friends and acquaintances together from both expat and local Khmer communities to share in their two common interests: art and pancakes.

The project, Hablitzel explained, all began on a houseboat named Lucie in Amsterdam two years ago. At first, Hablitzel would host barbecues on his boat. When the weather got too cold for outdoor cooking, he moved inside to the living room, inviting a group of friends to listen to a few artists talk about their work and eat pancakes.

The concept proved popular, and when Hablitzel moved to Siem Reap nine months ago, he decided to export the project with him.

Despite relocating to the other side of the world, the model hasn’t changed much.

“I invite friends over to a place – my house or public venues – two or three of them present their art, whatever that may be, and the Pancart crew and I make pancakes for everybody,” he said. He’s found a ready audience: about 50 participants turned up for the last event.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Martin Hablitzel first combined art and pancakes on a houseboat named Lucie. Sam Walker

Hablitzel works by day as an IT project manager and does not have a background in art. But he doesn’t see this as a problem, because of the open-ended nature of the Pancart mandate – for the Dutchman, art is simply “somebody’s talent or a passion that creates something beautiful or makes the world a better place”.

He refers to Pancart as a “movement” that attracts those who are curious, including artists, yoga enthusiasts, vegans and those seeking an alternative lifestyle.

“Pancart is more like a lifestyle than this specific event,” Hablitzel said, describing it as a welcoming network that explores progressive ways to share and learn from others.

The 36-year-old lives in what he calls the “Pancart house”.

It’s a big duplex-style house he shares with a Khmer family and a group of like-minded, art-loving people, including resident artist Sophy Phal.

The 20-year-old Phal is a former soldier who started taking art lessons when he was 16 and is hoping to hold an exhibition in the future.

Back in February, Phal joined forces with Stuart Cochlin from the Giant Puppet Project to present at the first Siem Reap Pancart.

For Hablitzel, the most important thing about Pancart is the possibilities inherent in its events, which connect people and communities.

“Whoever has whatever idea, come to me and we will make it happen – the crazier the better,” he said.

A recent initiative included a bunch of people in the front yard of the Pancart house, treading in paint and then walking over canvases to create a large abstract art piece.

Hablitzel is hoping some of the large spaces in the house will be used to hold art workshops and exhibitions.

“It is about empowering each other,” he said. “We are all consumers of culture.”

Sam Walker


  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Monks given ‘Samdech’ title for contributions

    Three senior monks on Thursday were given the highest-ranking title “samdech”, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the promotions were due to their contributions to Buddhism. The three distinguished monks were promoted on Thursday morning at Botum Vatey pagoda in Phnom Penh, at a

  • Facing possible sanctions, PM criticises Washington’s rights record

    While United States congressmen are discussing the Cambodia Democracy Act and an amendment that could impose more sanctions against Cambodia’s government, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday counterattacked by questioning the respect of human rights and democracy under the US-backed Lon Nol regime, and