Some events that shaped the culture and arts sector this past yearWith much of life under lockdown this past year, the culture and arts scene suffered deeply, and in silence. And while the year was one of loss, it was also one of learning, adapting, growing and seeing strength in solidarity.
Faith reigned supreme: The chariot of the gods
The pulling of the Rato Machindranath chariot, which is normally done in April, had to be postponed several times due to restrictions imposed by the spread of Covid-19. On September 3, after months of postponements, hundreds of people gathered in Pulchowk, where the chariot had remained idle for months, defying government orders and started pulling the Rato Machhindranath chariot. Soon, a clash broke out between police and the public. However, an agreement was later reached between the locals and the local government. And on September 6, the Rato Machhindranath chariot was pulled—but with a limited number of people and a heavy presence of security personnel.
Iconic Rani Pokhari finally got restored
The famed Ranipokhari, which was damaged by the earthquakes of 2015, was finally restored and inaugurated in October. Reconstruction work began on January 16, 2016, with an initial plan of having the work completed by end of 2017. Finally, after nearly five years and a slew of controversies and criticisms, the restoration of the pond was finally completed and made open to the public this year.
Santosh Shah put Nepal on the culinary map
Until last year, Santosh Shah was just another Nepali chef working abroad. Then in November this year, Shah was selected as one of the participants of MasterChef: The Professionals, and he became a household name in Nepal. On the show, Shah prepared Nepali dishes like ya: mari, amot, khodo ko kheer, and impressed the judges. By the time Shah reached the finals of the show, he had become a household name in Nepal and helped promote Nepali food on the global stage.
Nepal saw its first museum dedicated to Nepali art
In a year that saw almost the whole of the Nepali art scene move to the virtual world, we also saw the opening of the Museum of Nepali Arts or MoNA. The museum is located in the premises of Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel and it is the brainchild of Rajan Sakya, the CEO of KGH Group of Hotels and Resorts. According to Sakya, MoNA aspires to bring people closer to art and expand the horizon of Nepali art. Currently, the museum features more than a hundred traditional and contemporary works of renowned Nepali artists.
Country lost Rastri Kavi Madhav Prasad Ghimire
Amidst a year of loss, the country lost Madhav Prasad Ghimire, one of the last of the Nepali literary figures from among the older generation, at the age of 101 at his residence in Lainchaur in late August. Known as Rastra Kavi, or national poet, Ghimire was also a playwright and essayist.
He is best known for his literary works such as Gauri (epic), Kinnar Kinnari (lyrical anthology), Charu Charcha (essay collection) and Shakuntala, yet another epic.
Communities came together to respond to the Covid crisis
In inspirational displays of humanity, several independent groups around Kathmandu—and across the nation—made sure the most vulnerable in society had food to eat during this year of crisis. Whether it was a group of youngsters from Om Bahal, a neighbourhood in Kathmandu, or a monk from Boudha, Geshe Sonam Wangchen, who was working in collaboration with a local club and local authorities, people from diverse social backgrounds came together during the lockdowns to provide two warm meals to those who had been rendered helpless because of the pandemic.
A fresh and creative approach shaped social movements
One good thing the pandemic did is it allowed people to become creative and plan out social movements in such a way that grabbed the attention of the authorities—without compromising on people’s safety.
For instance, Ajhai Kati Sahane, a group of young activists, formed to reform the movement against sexual harassment, organised flashmobs, following saftey protocols, a rare approach used in social movement. Likewise, in the past year, the Dalit Lives Movement also saw a unity among the art circle who painted murals in public places to highlight the caste system and the social fabric that islolated Dalit people.