Pedestrians stop and stare as a young white woman carefully paints an elaborate mural on the boundary wall of a residence in Lalitpur, a satellite town of Kathmandu.
They, like most residents of Kathmandu Valley, which includes Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, aren’t used to seeing art on walls. But that is changing fast. These days several walls in these three towns are adorning a new look, courtesy an ongoing project that hopes to turn the valley into an open gallery and make art accessible to the masses.
The project, Kolor Kathmandu, is also adding beauty to the valley, many parts of which wears a bombed look, thanks to a massive road expansion drive underway for over a year now.
The idea to turn walls into canvases started with Yuki Paudel, project director and the creative brain behind Kolor Kathmandu, during her stay in the US to pursue a degree in liberal arts.
“Street art in places like Philadelphia and Berlin have inspired me and I wanted to bring it to the Kathmandu walls which always had film posters and political slogans on them,” she said.
Once the idea took root Yuki and her team at Sattya Media Arts Collaborative, a resource network of creative people from the valley, got busy with planning.
The project soon got funds from the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development of Netherlands. A local manufacturer, Pashupati Paints, agreed to provide all the paint needed for the murals.
Over three dozen local artists and art students were selected to take part.
Experienced artists like Hera and Akut from Germany and others from India, Canada, Singapore, USA, Australia and Spain gave some fresh ideas.
Each artist was asked to select three districts they would like to portray and design a concept based on the research of that area. A draft was then prepared and each mural was approved.
“Initially everyone was having a hard time conceptualising the murals as the project is so new to Nepal but slowly they came up with bolder and unique ideas to depict the districts,” said Yuki.
The next obstacle was to get approval of the house owners to allow the artists to pour out their plans on their walls. Permission for public walls was more difficult due to cumbersome government processes.
“Initially the house owners were afraid that we may spoil their walls. But once we explained the concept they let us paint,” said Abhisekh Maskey, project coordinator. With things falling into place, painting of the murals began in December last year with Humla district being the first. Till date 55 have been completed and the rest are expected to be over by August.