… dedicated by the famous Nepali rockband to all earthquake victims of Nepal.
About the BandDuring early 80s Kathmandu was still going through hangover of hippie era, it had a strong western music influence in the air. Mukti Shakya, a local growing up near Freak Street, picked up guitar, joined one of the most popular band “Radium” as bassist. Mukti was soon regarded as an inspiration to the up coming musician and idol to many musicians of the valley. His had and has fans in all kinds of different age groups from teenagers to old folks who are still singing his tunes and swinging to his rhythms all over the world. In the mid 80’s Mukti went to Spain with his wife, where he played and toured with different other bands.Mukti came back to Kathmandu in early 90’s. Noticing the change in the scene he decided that he needed to revive the old musical charm. Thus, he collected young energetic musicians Roshan Kansakar, Rabindra Shrestha, Binod Shrestha and started the Mukti and Revival. From performing for a crowd of 15000 at Kathmandu Durbar Square to 100’s at small bars and venues, Mukti and Revival’s music has never failed to mesmerize the crowd.
The band has performed all over America, Europe, Australia, Canada Sikkim,India.
With 4 albums and numerous Hits awards under their belt, Mukti & Revival holds a prominent space in Nepali Rock Music Scenario.
• Kalanki ko Jam
• Bujhhai Deu
• Dekhdai Chhu Ma
• Sadhai Bhari
… whilst preparing for the opening of an exhibition with artists Shradda Shrestha and Sudeep Balla next week (July 4, 2015) at TINGS, Thomas expressed some highly critical but also soundly constructive ideas about the art and artists of Nepal:
“We’re involved in the Nepalese art and culture because we can’t help it”
Portrait of Thomas by Aditya Aryal
When we started Tings Tea Lounge & Lounge Hotel in Kathmandu back in 2010 we loved the local art and culture. But already after a year in Kathmandu we found most of the art and culture events in town very boring.
Most of the art & cultural events that we have experienced in the years we’ve lived in Nepal have been money machines for the local organizers behind.
Only on very few occasions have we witnessed new interesting art and culture, that thrills us. Otherwise there is always an organization and/or an Embassy involved who have another agenda compared to the involved artists. To create and express their passions is far from the performing artists primary goal.
To get fast access to the huge international culture funds is what most of are going for – in order to cover their materials. Where is the anger, the humor, the desperation, the sex and all the other feelings and emotions young artists around the world are dying to get out? We can’t see in the art! That’s why the Nepalese art scene is boring and predictable.
To most people Tings is a small casual Hotel and Lounge. But there is another side to Tings that most travelers don’t know about.
Tings is the platform we use for our involvement in developing and nurturing young talent: In the local Start Up Business Environment, The local art & culture scene, The local media world or any of the other areas where we feel we have something to share and sufficient experience & insights to make a difference.
Art@Tings is the platform we started up 6 years ago – a virtual company that focus on the local art scene in Nepal.
It took us more that two years before we made our first art exhibition with Nepalese contemporary art. And another two years to establish Art@Tings as a small, but serious alternative to the few established galleries in the Kathmandu.
What we try to do is getting the energy back to the artist. To Give them 100% artistic freedom to create what they are passionate about without fear of interference from others.We can do that because we fund everything ourselves – the whole idea behind our Tings business is to support talent.
These days – almost 6 years since we did our first Art@Tings projects – we feel we are closer to what we had in mind when we started up. To open the art worlds eyes to local contemporary art we like ourselves. Not because the art comes from a Earthquake hit Developing country but because the art is at least as good at the art we see in European galleries and because the artists not only have something to say – they have the talent and guts to do it.
Aditya Aryal is the first of the artist we work with to get an invitation to an international art event. His is currently touring Europe.
Poster of the upcoming exhibit
On the 4th we open the doors to an exhibition we have been dreaming on for a long time: Something – Anything – Nothing by Sudeep Balla & Shraddha Shrestha – two artists we expect will follow Aditia’s foodsteps.
Art@Tings works not only works for free – we fund everything ourselves. Still we manages to make a difference!
Because our costs are way below the money the local art scene throw around. But more important – we have a plan, a strategy and a lot of passion.
As in all we do we share everything – if people want to copy us its fine. That’s actually why we’re in Nepal.
So if you are and art lover and a local art activist, art buyer or have other interests in this part of the Nepalese culture feel free to copy our ideas, visions, considerations etc.
They are here. (Check out more what, why, and how!)
AND HERE’S A VIDEO RECAP OF THE VERY SUCCESSFUL EVENING WITH 300 PLUS GUESTS:
… this is soooo worth a post: stories about everyday Nepalis fashioned after the popular ‘Humans of New York’. The photos are great in their own right, but by combining them with the short little stories they really come alive! See what the earthquake has done to the lives of people in different villages and I invite you wholeheartedly to follow Jaydev’s STORIES OF NEPAL page as a reguar reader!
It all started with a post about a young tea-seller, followed by a story on a neighbourhood barber, next to go up was a doughnut maker’s tale. Since then photographer Jaydev Paudel has shared hundreds of stories about everyday Nepalis on his Stories of Nepal page, fashioned after the very popular Humans of New York. Paudel’s stories struck a chord with Nepalis on Facebook and the page currently has over 129,000 likes.
“I had no idea Stories of Nepal was going to be such a hit, it was just a project to understand fellow Nepalis,” said Paudel, who moonlights as a graphic designer.
After the 25 April earthquake the 35-year-old set out in search of more stories. He was shocked by the destruction, but more impressed by the strength of survivors: such as this of a new-born earthquake baby in Kavre.
People offered to help, and Stories of Nepal took relief materials to 200 families and built 50 shelters in the quake-hit districts.
Says Paudel: “I had never before witnessed such love and compassion as I did in days after the quake .”
The earthquake destroyed my house so I went to the market to buy hammer and nails to fix it up. I also bought this nice bag while I was there.
Jyurme Lama (Melamchi, Sindhupalchok)
They call me mad but I am not. My parents died when I was really young. My relatives who raised me are also no longer alive. I have no family, friends, house, food or companion. Many times I have been beaten for no fault of mine. People pelt stones at me and children run away when they see me. They have no idea the rag I have on my head is to protect it from the wind which gives me a splitting headache. But once in awhile someone comes and talks to me.
Gyan Bahadur Dagar (Gumtha, Mugu)
As a child I was told dogs were filthy animals, they carried diseases and to stay away from them. I was never taught to love and respect dogs. Hence, I never really understood why we celebrated Kukur puja. After joining the army, I became a dog trainer. I have been with OT for nine years now, gave him basic training and then special training for search and rescue. I see so many qualities in OT that I wish were present in human beings. He is so pure, just look at him. I try to emulate him but am not sure how successful I have been.
Dipak Paudel (Thimi, Bhaktapur)
I worked in a poultry farm in Qatar for five years. My employer was a good man, he often commended me for my hardwork and praised me in front of his family and friends. The day I was leaving for Nepal he gave me Rs 100,000 saying it was a gift from his family to mine. I returned home and built a house for my family and one for my brothers with the money I saved. My children were going to school, crops were growing well, things were falling in place when the earthquake struck and I lost everything. A few days after the quake, my former employer called me on my phone. He said he had seen the news on tv and told me: ‘You are like my brother, tell me what you need. Come back if you need a job, I will send you a ticket.
Thapa Dai (Ghumthang, Sindhupalchok)
After a while even the tears run dry. I thought there was no point in sitting and crying anymore. So I picked up these tomatoes from our garden and started selling them to passers-by on the highway. If I can earn even a little amount, I will be able to buy rice and spices on my own.
Mina Tamang (Gyamdi, Kavre)
I was very handsome when I was young. The girls would start whispering to each other the minute they saw me. I think I still am. I am one of the few men in this village to elope with a girl. My family didn’t have enough money for an arranged marriage so I thought I’d just take her away with me. In those days love was very different. We were shy and communication was a lot harder. The youngsters these days have mobile phones so they fall in love over the phones. In our times love happened in person.
Bahadur Shrestha (Ghumthang, Sindhupalchok)
In the end we are all Nepalis. We all die when suffocated, and bleed when cut. The earthquake didn’t discriminate people on the basis of religion, caste, and class. Who are we then to set apart people when nature doesn’t.
Asturias, a principality in the north-west of Spain, followed events in the news about the earthquakes in Nepal with special interest in the spring of 2015. People here were shocked by the images in the media, but also were hoping for the safe return of Asturian mountaineers who were in Nepal at the time of the disaster.
Unfortunately, four of the Asturians, from the small city of Avilés, were not found alive. This, and the personal ties which linked a number of people here in Asturias with Nepal, perhaps sparked a particular need in Asturians to take personal action to do what they could to assist the people of Nepal.
I have followed a number of initiatives which have been carried out by individuals and collectives here in Asturias, to raise money or to support Nepalese communities directly, through artistic projects.
Art (created in Nepal) exhibit in Jardín de la Nuega in Asturias
Exposition space at Jardin de la Nuega in Asturias, Spain
One great example of these activities is that of the art exhibition which has been held in the exhibition room of the funeral home called Jardín de la Nuega. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited the exhibition, as it is the first time I had been to a funeral home to visit an art show, but in fact, the location, in a renovated palace beside a park in the coastal city of Gijón, is a beautiful room for viewing paintings.
In the entrance of the exhibition is a photo of the artist, Fernando Fueyo, an Asturian who has visited Nepal in order to paint. In a glass case under the photo, is a range of the materials, including watercolours, inks and sketch books, that Fernando used while painting in Nepal.
There is also a collection box, in which visitors to the exhibition can make a donation to help reconstruction work in Nepal. These funds will be sent to Nepal through the humanitarian organization Mensajeros de la Paz, which has its base in the same area of the city as the exhibition.
The exhibition room is bright, light and peaceful, with classical music playing. The name of the exhibition, El Bosque Habitado, means The Living Forest, and points to the theme of most of the paintings, which are beautifully rendered ink drawings of trees, coloured with watercolour washes. The drawings are accompanied by text, which explains, in first person from the point of view of the tree, the role of each species and its own special character.
Image of a monk, bright in his pink robes at Asturias exhibition
A striking addition to these paintings is the image of a monk, bright in his pink robes and who seems to bring a feeling of calm to the room. The exhibition has been popular, worth visiting for the quality of the paintings, the calm of the atmosphere, and the opportunity to make a donation to help the communities of Nepal where the artist had travelled.
Andrea de la Rubia, a young Asturian in Nepal
Another Asturian with direct connections to Nepal is Andrea de la Rubia Gomez-Moran, who was visiting Nepal at the time of the earthquakes, carrying out an investigation for her studies at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid.
Andrea is studying for her doctorate in the History of Art and was in Nepal gathering information for part of her work related to the Modern Art of Nepal during the Twentieth Century.
Andrea had been working directly with artists and crafts people within Nepal, which prompted her to organize an exhibition called The Speed of the Contemporary, in Gallery MCUBE in Chakupat, Kathmantdu. The exhibition, of works of contemporary Nepalese artists was a reflection of the contrast between traditional culture and the speed of modern life, and the main aim of the exhibition was to support victims of the earthquakes.
Exposition at MCUBE Gallery in Kathmandu, curated by Andrea de la Rubia
I asked Andrea what she thought about the destruction of cultural heritage in Nepal as a result of the earthquakes and she told me that it is extremely important that the reconstruction work be carried out by Nepalese people of the Newari cast, who have traditionally worked on the temples and therefore have the skills necessary. She says it is important that local people should be paid to do this work, rather than bringing in foreign workers, in order to help the local economy. Andrea also talked about the importance of tourism to Nepal, and urged people from Spain to keep visiting the country, saying that it is now stable.
Inma Zapico Garcia, Asturian shopkeeper with a heart for Nepal
Inma Zapico Garcia is another lady from the city of Gijón who has links to Nepal. She is the owner of a shop called Badulake in the centre of Gijón, where she sells clothes and crafts products, most of which are from Nepal and India.
Inma has visited Nepal several times and she explained that she has close links to the producers of the Nepalese products. She told me that when she heard the news about the earthquakes, she felt as affected as if she were hearing bad news about her own family, and these emotions prompted her to want to help.
Inma, and owners of other shops in Spain, are working through a collective called “Don’t Forget Nepal”, organizing activities to raise funds. In Inma´s case, she took stock from the shop to set up a craft market in the infant school that her children attend, called El Colegio Infantíl San Eutiquio. With the help of the school director and a group of other mums, Inma ran the market and generated funds and awareness.
After the market closed, Inma decided to continue the activity within her Badulake shop, where she has decicated an area to selling products specifically to raise funds for the community of Nepal, and also collects money from people wishing to make a donation. Inma told me that she had wanted to go to Nepal to help, but realised that the best way she could help was from here in Astu
Doctor Armando Menéndez, fundraising for Nepal with his book
I had the great pleasure of meeting the Asturian medic Doctor Armando Menéndez at a fundraising event for the victims of the Nepal earthquake, which was organized by his foundation, the Dr Armando Foundation, or DAF, in conjunction with the local council of Avilés. The event was also attended by the mayoress of Avilés, who spoke about the missing mountaineers and about the humanitarian efforts which were being carried out within Nepal and the importance of assisting with these efforts.
Journalist Naciu Varillas, who works with a local media network, also addressed the audience, highlighting the importance of tolerance between religions and the responsibility of the media to continue reporting events in the months and years after a disaster such as the Nepal earthquakes, not only the immediate aftermath.
Then came the turn of Dr Armando to speak, explaining the work that his foundation has been carrying out not only in Nepal, but also in India and Bhutan. The doctor presented his book, named “El Monje Mentiroso“, or in English “The Lying Monk”, which is in large part about the importance of peace between religions. The book was on sale at the event, and has also been sold through a number of shops and cafes in Gijón, which display a poster in their windows about the book.
The money raised from the sales of Dr. Armando’s book will add to the fundraising work carried out by the DAF Foundation. In his inspiring talk, the doctor addressed this subject of the global economic system and the social injustice which generate poverty with the result that the effects of a natural disaster such as an earthquake become even more terrible. Dr Armando also spoke about the fact that many of us prefer to watch, inactive, rather than taking action or speaking up, because of what he termed “a vaccine of fear”, which reduce us to being blind to what we see or to choosing to do nothing.
The doctor stressed that although his foundation works through the energy of volunteers, it isn’t necessary for us all to go overseas in order to act, and that we all have the power to make change by our small day-to-day acts. He talked about us all being “seeds of good”, which we can spread and allow to grow through acts of love from one person to another person in need of help.
After the doctor spoke, the audience was shown a documentary, called Requiem for a World Without Sense, in which the work of the Dr. Armado Foundation is explained through a series of emotive images. This summer, the doctor will be returning to Nepal in order to continue his work.
This article will be published in Spanish in the arts and literature magazine El Sentido Figurado, along with information about arts projects which have been carried out within Nepal. I hope that through the article, we can continue to raise awareness in Spain of the difficulties faced by the people in Nepal to rebuild their lives through the earthquake, and that we can continue to support the individuals and organizations that are, through their artistic projects, working hard to assist the communities in Nepal with which they feel so closely connected
Info about Hazel: I am English, from York, have been living in Gijón for about six years. I now teach English as a Foreign Language to children and adults. I am also a qualified illustrator of childrens’ books, and am currently working on a new book which I am illustrating and writing. I am a hobby artist, and have taken part in collective exhibitions in the UK and also here in Asturias. I have also had three solo exhibitions here in Asturias. I am always interested in improving my artistic skills and go on courses (when I have time and money!!) in local workshops and galleries here, and go out painting with a local watercolour painting group. In the past I have done quite a bit of voluntary work for NGOs related to environmental conservation and also more humanitarian issues, so I have been interested in the idea of combining the arts with humanitarian issues for a while. The activities here in Asturias, and in Nepal, caught my eye and as I had been asked to contribute to a Spanish arts magazine (they sometimes ask me because of my English, which means I can conduct interviews and research in English, then write to a reasonable level in Spanish), I was looking for an interesting theme and I decided to investigate further and write an article about these projects. I have previously written for magazines and newspapers in the UK and in Spain on a range of subjects, including environmental sustainability, teaching English, and art.
Reposted from www.intrepidtravel.com here a fine interview with Nicholas Cowie, Intrepid’s General Manager for Nepal, who lives with his wife and children in Budhanilkantha, Kathmandu. He was there when the earthquake struck on April 25th, when pictures fell from the walls and the ground snaked and shook beneath his adopted hometown. James Shakell sat down with hism and asked him what’s next for Nepal and its people and the travel industry.
1. What were your experiences of the earthquake?
When the initial earthquake hit, my family and I had just returned from the ANZAC commemoration at the Australian Embassy. We could hear the earthquake approaching and felt the initial shakes. Being from Christchurch, New Zealand, we weren’t overly concerned.
However, the quake rapidly became more violent and we – myself, my wife and our two sons – came together to stand under a door frame between the kitchen and lounge. Pictures were falling from the walls, the refrigerator was moving across the floor and items were jumping from the now open cupboards in the kitchen. The noise was incredible.
There was a brief second when the shaking subsided, then began to increase again. We left the apartment and descended three flights of stairs, making it safely outside to open ground.
Each time another quake approached, you could clearly hear the rumbling. All the birds would fly up into the sky away from the trees, giving us just enough time to brace ourselves and ride the bucking ground.
When it was clear that the situation was under control at Park Village, I had to run eight kilometres to Thamel to meet our Operations Manager, Sujan. The phone lines were down. The closer I travelled to Thamel the chaos and damage increased. Telephone and power poles down across the road, cars and motorcycles in every direction, dust, debris and noise. I arrived at the Kathmandu Guesthouse where Sujan had bought all of our guests together. After we made sure everyone was safe and accounted for, we all evacuated to Park Village were tent accommodation had been erected.
2. What’s the situation like on the ground now?
I’m not an engineer, so I can only give an impression of the situation. What I can say is that the post-earthquake clean-up of streets has been rapid and effective. There has been a fast response to providing aid and shelter across the country. There’s a feeling of order and regrouping, and International aid organisations and the Government are actively communicating. Currently, a Post Disaster Needs Assessment is being done so an understanding of the medium to long term requirements of the affected areas can be made.
The focus is now on medium and long-term assistance to rebuild lives and jobs. We’re consulting with representatives from the World Bank/IFC World Bank Group, UN, large and small NGOs, the Tourism Recovery Cell and the Nepali Government to identify were we can be the most effective.
3. What are the big challenges going forward for the Nepalese people?
Establishing a sense of normality in people’s personal lives, looking after their children, families and friends. Rebuilding their lives and businesses. Tourism is a significant GDP earner for Nepal and has an impact on most households. I’m aware of people who currently have no income ability because there is no tourism. This includes trekking leaders, hotel staff, airline ground and air crew, restaurateurs, taxi drivers and shop keepers to name just a few.
We’re heading into what is normally the monsoon low season, when not many tourists visit. But it’s the uncertainty of what the August, post-monsoon season holds that is causing the most concern for people. The possible retrenchment of jobs and closing of businesses.
4. How have our trekking routes and itineraries been affected?
Our first priority was to put all itineraries on hold in Nepal until we could effectively determine each was safe. The engineering assessment process we’re a part of will provide us with an understanding of what needs to be done in Everest and Annapurna to reopen trekking routes. We’re working closely with engineers, authorities, hotels and visitor sites to understand the situation in Kathmandu, Pokhara and other areas.
5. What message would you have for people thinking of travelling to Nepal?
In Nepal, tourism creates jobs, jobs support families, families contribute to societies. Travellers who are willing to come to Nepal will directly and positively affect change for the better.
Please don’t cancel your trips to Nepal at this stage. We’re working very hard to get the engineering assessments and reports completed before the monsoon that will determine what work has to be done to reopen tourism safely for everyone.
Please tell all your family and friends about what Intrepid is striving to achieve for a sustainable tourism future for Nepal. Your collaborative voice will make a difference.
Intrepid Travel will be donating all profits from our 2015/16 Nepal trips to on-the-ground rebuilding projects supported by our not-for-profit organisation, The Intrepid Foundation. To learn more about our trips or this initiative, click here.
James Shackell – I was born in 1987 and aged from there. I like the sound of pop-rocks and dislike the sound of styrofoam. The length of my forearm is approximately the same as the length of my shin. My favourite Beatle is Ringo. I believe that junk food tastes so good because it’s bad for you and that your parents did the best job they knew how to do. If Johnny Cash wrote a song about my travels it would be called ‘I’ve been to several places but still have many other destinations on my to-do list, man’. Sometimes I have trouble finishing sen …
… this is NepalNow’s first post after the terrible earthquake. For weeks I didn’t consider it appropriate to merrily report on “modern art & modern life of Nepal” – but slowly I want to pick up activities again.
I am honored to make a begin with the re-posting of Kurchi’s fine article summing up what’s been happening in the arts community. The piece was originally published in FRIEZE blog on June 5th,2015.
Kurchi is also spearheading an INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN trying to raise funds for artists and performers who have suffered especially under the earthquake and its aftermath, please visit HERE!!!
From Kathmandu: art in a time of crisis
by Kurchi Dasgupta, originally FRIEZE Blog
Army officers rescuing artworks from the National Academy of Fine Art, Kathmandu
It is afternoon in Kathmandu and I sit at my laptop, grateful that my internet connection is holding up despite the five or so jolts that have registered on the Richter scale since this morning. The recent earthquakes in Nepal have brought upon the country a level of destruction that defies comprehension – in just three weeks almost ten thousand people have died (more than half the number claimed by the decade-long civil war). Many more face a bleak future.
What possible relevance can art have in such circumstances? As soon as the first tremors hit, the National Academy of Fine Art (NAFA) came tumbling down and its annual exhibition had to be hastily removed from the building, along with the national archive of priceless traditional and Western-influenced modernist artworks. Right now a traumatised Chancellor, artist Ragini Upadhyay Grela, is running NAFA from a temporary structure in one corner of the building’s grounds. Given the central role the NAFA has in the Nepalese art world, its difficulties, even if temporary, constitute a major setback for both the traditional and contemporary artists whose careers are bound up with this institution.
The NAFA main campus after the earthquake
Even more severely damaged have been the buildings of Lalitkala Campus, the first Nepali centre for arts education, which since its founding in 1934, has produced the bulk of the country’s artists. The situation is so bad that relocation appears to be the institution’s only option. Its MFA programme, in the town of Kirtipur, may only resume after major architectural repairs are carried out and, according to the department head, Seema Sharma Shah, ‘exams are indefinitely postponed’. Kathmandu University (KU) has not fared much better. Its buildings are torn by cracks and fissures. However, hope remains that the university can reopen within the month at a new location. Srijana College of Fine Arts, the country’s first privately run art college, has also been badly damaged and its students are in a state of limbo, uncertain as to their future.
At this time of crisis the arts community has rallied round impressively. Many arts institutions and individual artists are involved in building shelters for the homeless before the monsoon season hits, or are otherwise active in delivering relief materials to remote communities. Sujan Chitrakar, the Director of Painting and Design at KU, and acclaimed ceramicist Gopal Kalapremi Shrestha, have both led students on missions to rebuild parts of the decimated Bungamati village, on the edge of Kathmandu valley. In addition to searching for and rescuing villagers from the rubble, the students are building shelters and toilets for those whose homes have been destroyed in the quake. Artist Milan Rai is doing an amazing job of improving sanitation in badly affected areas, and fellow practitioners Hitman Gurung and Sheelasha Rajbhandari, through their community arts organization Artree, have made similar efforts in the devastated ancient township of Bhaktapur.
The crumbling buildings of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Museum
The effects if the earthquake are not only material. Many citizens of Katmandu are already feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Three artists from the city have lost their lives, whilst at least fifteen more have been injured. Rabita Kisi, a young artist with whom I have worked in the past, has lost her home, her mother and her son. The artist Sushma Shakya, nominated for the Sovereign Prize last year, lost her left arm trying to save her father. Such stories pour in every day – hundreds of artists and students have been made homeless by the crisis and the death toll continues to rise due to the effects of shock or exposure to the severe rains. It is as yet unclear what effect the crisis has had on those artists living in more far flung areas of the country.
Museums have also been badly hit. Although most of the millennia-old artefacts in the National Museum at Chhauni have been rescued and stored in a safe location, sections of the building remain structurally unsound and cannot be entered, putting part of the collection at risk. The Patan Museum of sacred Nepalse art, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also shows signs of minor damage. The Taragaon Museum, which charts the history of the city of Katmandu, has major cracks running across its walls. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace Museum, home to an unparalleled collection of objects relating to the recently toppled royal Shah dynasty, is so severely damaged that hopes of its restoration seem like nothing more than wild fantasy.
Anil Subba and Ritesh Maharjan, 7.8 Series, 2015, performance documentation‘
The art scene will have to start again from scratch,’ says Sangeeta Thapa, who heads the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre as well as the Kathmandu International Festival (KIAF). Her own space, Siddhartha Art Gallery, has had to be shut down due to structural damage, and the prospect of organizing another KIAF is currently unthinkable. Other commercial and non-commercial art spaces have also been affected. Bikalpa Art Centre and Artudio – art spaces for the young – have suffered heavily because of the quakes, whilst Bindu Art Space, Artist Proof Gallery and The Park Gallery have all sustained damage that has either forced them to close or rendered them barely operational. Lasanaa, a project space run by the renowned artist Ashmina Ranjit, was undergoing organizational restructuring and relocation when the tremors hit and now needs immediate funding to ensure its survival. Only The Nepal Art Council and the small commercial gallery Newa Chen hope to continue with their exhibition programmes.
City Museum, a popular new space, has been adversely hit on more than one front. Controversy has surrounded ‘Urban Myths 3’, a group show exploring contemporary Nepali urban life, which opened in early April. A mixed media work, depicting the Living Goddess Kumari of Kathmandu with a printed ad for condoms collaged onto her divine forehead, has attracted complaints from the Newar and Hindu communities. They revere Kumari, a pre-pubescent girl selected by the local population to be the living incarnation of the goddess Durga or Taleju, as a protective deity for the city. The work, by artist Sudeep Bhalla, was intended to encourage viewers to reflect upon the objectification of women in Nepali society. But many locals now believe that the earthquakes were caused by the Kumari’s wrath at the desecration of her image. As a result Kashish Das Shrestha, the space’s founder-director, has been threatened by community leaders, issued with an First Incident Report from the police and is currently evading arrest. My own solo exhibition, which would have opened there last month, has been postponed indefinitely.
Police inspecting Sudeep Bhalla’s artwork at City Museum
But even as fanaticism rears its ugly head some old social boundaries are crumbling. A fundraiser at Gallery MCube in Patan brought together two disperate strands of the local artworld, pairing the work of senior Nepali artists (such as Shashi Bikram Shah, Birendra Pratap Singh and Shashikala Tiwari) with that of younger performers Anil Subba and Ritesh Maharjan. At the opening, in a small, darkened room in the gallery Subba hung from a hook on the wall. His performance with Maharjan began as a digital timer sprung to life, counting down from 7.8mins, as sounds of destruction and extracts from local news broadcasters FM News _and _Zeitgeist droned from the speakers. All the while Subba flailed about helplessly, groaning into a microphone. On the floor lay the naked, supine, vulnerable body of Maharjan. The event, the duration of which stood in for the Richter Scale measurement of the first, terrible quake, conjured up the sense of threat experienced in the intial moments of the disaster. At a time when many are still in denial over the physical and psychological scars incurred by recent events, this jarring work of art constituted an important first step in the process of acknowledgement and acceptance.
Maharjan and Subba’s performance is just one example of the important psychotherapeutic function that art can provide in this context. Many artists are running much-needed art therapy and counselling sessions for children and adults, not only in Kathmandu, but in more remote towns and villages. Sadly, there is little financial support for these activities. What money there is comes from independent fundraising events for general relief, such as Gaynor O’Flynn’s international programme Artists for Nepal, but none specifically is meant for the arts community, except crowd-funding drives such as my own on Indiegogo. Further support has come in the form of contributions from online galleries such as eartsnepal.com. A fund from the NAFA is currently being planned.
Such financial difficulties are not a new problem for artists in Kathmandu. Even before the quake struck, the Nepali contemporary art scene was operating on tight margins. Whilst antiquities and artworks made according to traditional methods enjoy remarkable local and global popularity, contemporary artists from the country rarely experience comparable commercial success. There is no state funded museum for the display of contemporary art in Nepal, and only a handful of commercial galleries and exhibition spaces show such work. The postponement of KIAF, the country’s one international platform for artists, could plunge the arts community into obscurity for years to come unless something is developed to take its place. Artists depend upon sales, or on salaries from teaching positions, in order to survive. With the market stagnant, and the galleries and art schools closed, many artists will find it impossible to go on. What they need now, more than anything, are informed curators and institutions who can provide them with a space to work and exhibit outside of the country. The end of the civil war was the trigger for a new wave of artistic experimentation in the country which risks being lost if the Nepali artists are cut off from the wider world.