Maa Initiative to create an artistic haven in DolakhaHe was terminally ill,” artist and art critic Umesh Shrestha said with admiration in his eyes. “He was undergoing an operation for a tumor. Even then, he did not stop painting this masterpiece.”
He was terminally ill,” artist and art critic Umesh Shrestha said with admiration in his eyes. “He was undergoing an operation for a tumor. Even then, he did not stop painting this masterpiece.”
Seventy-six-year-old Sasi Bikram Shah’s Mother and Child hung on the walls at the exhibition, Shanti and Sadbhav 2. It depicted a mother nurturing her child as dearly as artists nurture their creations. The one-day exhibition at the Nepal Art Council on Monday included works donated by 71 other artists.
The funds raised from the exhibition will be provided to the Maa (Mother) initiative, which aims to nurture a safe haven for artists and build a creative space in the remote village of Gairimudi, Dolakha, so that the students can reap the benefits of art education.
“Creatively inclined people in Dolakha had little opportunity in the past,” said Umesh Shrestha, who used to live in Dolakha himself and is now, years later, the director of the Himalayan Arts and Culture Foundation, artist, art critic, curator, and one of the organizers of the Maa initiative. “There were no art teachers, artists, art materials or creative spaces. However, we will aspire to provide these things with our initiative. Hopefully, the future will not be as bleak for aspiring artists as it was for me.”
“Artists have a hard time creating value with their craft in Nepal,” says Bikram Dip Shrestha, a budding artist and a contributor to the exhibition, “Art is not given as much respect as other crafts such as theatre, dance, fashion, and performance arts.”
“The government does say
that artists and performers are the jewels of our country,” said Umesh Shrestha matter-of-factly “However, we (the jewels) are kept in boxes only to be taken out for exhibition once a year or so.”
The lamentations of Shah and Shrestha run in tandem with the general perception in Nepal towards art. Schools often do not include art or other creative programs in their curricula. Parents often discourage their children from pursuing art or taking classes in the field. There were only 5 fine arts colleges in Kathmandu, out of which 2 were only recently added.
With the recent rise of exhibitions, artists, critics, institutes, Nepal may see gradual increase in the appreciation and awareness of the arts. Only then will artists like Sasi Bikram Shah, who did not give up his craft despite grueling conditions or illnesses, will see their endeavors rewarded.