The travelling art exhibit comes to NepalThe organisation Arts4people hosts the ‘Crossing Continents Art Exhibition’, which has been showcased in six countries so far.
On a slow summer afternoon, inside the antique-looking premises of Hukkum Durbar in Kamalpokhari, I sat down with the founders of the non-profit organisation, Arts4people. In 2019, artists Ana Silvia Malhado from Portugal and Asif Uz Zaman from Bangladesh decided to take artworks across continents. They founded the organisation Arts4people, and introduced the ‘Crossing Continents Art Exhibition.’
Initially, these exhibitions were held in museums, libraries, and galleries in Portugal and Bangladesh; now, they are in Nepal. Ana and Asif have brought artworks from three continents (six countries) to Nepal with the help of the Centre for Nepali Culture. The exhibits were shown in Hukkum Durbar and ran from August 9 to 11. Thirteen artists from Argentina, Portugal, Bangladesh, Peru, Spain, and Nepal participated in the exhibition.
Ana walks me through the exhibition and tells me she is also a biology and geology teacher at a school named ‘Escola Amadeu Gaudencio’ in Nazare, Portugal. She graduated with a degree in biology from the University of Aveiro in 1996 and did her postgraduate in Conservation Biology from the University of Lisbon in 2005. “I love nature. Hence, biology and painting,” says Ana.
She pauses to show me her artwork, made from used teabags. She used tea stains to make paintings of insects, birds, flowers, and other parts of nature. These artworks were carefully clipped on a thin rope and swayed with the air. “I got the idea to use old teabags in lockdown. I made most of these in my kitchen, as I used to cook and draw simultaneously,” she says.
Apart from teaching and painting, she keeps herself busy by repairing old and damaged pieces of furniture. “I stop my car near the garbage disposal site and carefully pick out small pieces of furniture that I can repair and stuff them in my car,” she shares with a bright smile. Her father, though, throws the occasional banter at her for doing so. “A teacher doesn’t typically collect garbage,” she adds.
Asif tells me that the main motive of their organisation Arts4people is to meet artists like themselves and create a platform where one can represent their culture through their artworks. “The ‘Crossing Continent Art Exhibition’ is a product of our mutual love for paintings and the acceptance of the culture of one another,” he says.
As we stand in front of his painting (which depicts a letter and an old mobile phone set), Asif explains that when people communicated through letters, such forms of communication had emotions in them. “But now, communication is instant and devoid of emotion or feelings,” he shares.
This organisation also runs a programme called ‘Arts4people Kids,’ which supports children from underdeveloped communities. This project was started in the Bangladeshi village of Belabo in February 2020, 60 kilometres from the nation’s capital, Dhaka. The project’s breakthrough occurred in August 2022 when they organised an event in the same community where 60 children created art and they served meals to 160 people. As of now, the Nehru Children’s Museum in Kolkata, India, and a primary school in Dhaka, have also joined the initiative.
The Arts4people project encompasses humanitarian, social, cultural, and environmental dimensions and collaboration with volunteer artists. The project encourages individuals to donate art materials such as graphite pencils, coloured pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and other relevant materials to artists and children in need.
The installation ‘Ode to Life,’ which is among the artworks presented by Ana at the exhibition in Kathmandu, earned an honourable mention during the 19th Asian Art Biennale held in Bangladesh in 2022. “This installation aims to raise awareness about the significance of biodiversity conservation and planetary sustainability,” she expresses. Crafted from organic materials, including repurposed tea bags, it represents the interconnectedness among species and the fragility of their existence on Earth. In the face of extinction or imbalances, all species, including humans, become susceptible to the threat of extinction, she says.
Asif, the recipient of the best award category in the Berger young painter art competition in Bangladesh (2009), has embraced a nomadic lifestyle where he sets up exhibitions in different countries. Under the project, he has travelled to Turkey, India, Japan, and Macedonia. Reflecting on his travels, he highlights the vitality of new experiences and their power to transform one’s life.
Arts4people’s dedication to bringing people together via the universal language of art and humanity is an important initiative at a time that is often marred by obstacles and differences. The duo and their work serve as an example of the transformational power of creativity.
As these exhibitions traverse continents, they create bridges of understanding, appreciation, and shared experiences, fostering connections that transcend geographical boundaries. “There is a quote from Portuguese Poet Antonio Gedeao that inspires me and acts as a guideline for our project,” says Ana. “It goes: they do not know that dream commands life. When a person dreams, the world leaps and moves forward like a colourful ball in the hands of a child.”