Transformations to be appreciatedYou can savour good art, listen to good music and embark on gastronomical journeys.
It is always challenging to stay positive and forward-looking with all that is happening worldwide: The war in Ukraine, the political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka, and the liquidity crisis in Nepal. The dysfunctional Parliament, an impeachment motion against the chief justice of the Supreme Court surfacing once in a while, thoughts about the consequences of the neighbours abstaining from voting in a UN resolution where Nepal has voted against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the list goes on. But in Nepal, the most significant advantage is some fantastic stuff you can see around art, music and culture that helps you forget the challenges and lose yourself in appreciating good art, listening to good music and embarking on gastronomical journeys. The past month of March was all about such positivity as The Kathmandu Triennale provided a glimpse of where art has moved along with curation.
Planning an event at the end of a pandemic wave is not easy; one is not sure when a new variant will lockdown our lives. KT 2077 was such an event that the organisers were unsure how many people would risk visiting, and how possible it would be to have small events. This was an event that gave hope to many more event organisers. Thousands of people visited the multiple venues where great pieces of art, installations and multi-media art were put up. This was through the efforts of many volunteers and the tireless efforts of the curators led by Sangeeta Thapa, known for her untiring perseverance. This was also one of the events that interacted with the young TikTok and Instagram generations. It was interesting to see how the online space was flooded with photos, videos and other forms of interactions people had with the curated works. Perhaps, as the organisers would sit back and reflect on the event, they should be pleased about the response KT 2077 got.
One of the most significant transformations we see in Nepal has been in art, culture, music and beyond that has brought up front many young artists from across the country. Nepal has also been a place where artists long to visit, with Kathmandu being the cosmopolitan capital of South Asia. Of course, there have been state intervention in stifling some of these as the government uses tools like making visas difficult for people who want to stay longer. But apart from that, there have been minor state interventions in banning or obstructing programmes as we see in some other South Asian countries. The restrictions on activities in some countries in South Asia have led to Nepal becoming a go-to place for young artists, filmmakers, writers and others who would like to indulge in creative pursuits. This is what Nepal needs to leverage. Like the Jaipur Literature Festival has been able to convert the city into a vibrant destination in a decade, Nepal has the opportunity to become a destination known for such events. Photo Kathmandu, Kathmandu Jazz Festival, Film South Asia, Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival and many other events are already in people's minds. Still, no harm in having more as long as it is done in a coordinated manner.
Post-pandemic, it is very clear that new segments of tourists are emerging, with growing interest, especially in the experiential ones. People who just want to go to experience rather than be product-driven like trekking, climbing or doing a jungle safari. Nepal is fortunate to be land-linked with India and China. Within a few hours' flying distance; it connects with over half of humanity. Africa is already emerging as a future market potential in the younger segment as the continent will cross 2 billion people by the mid-2040s. Within the neighbourhood, there could be exploratory journeys by road as caravan travel revives that may bring hundreds of young people from India and China to experience Nepal during events.
It is crucial for such events to succeed globally to have a good ecosystem. Kathmandu Valley, especially Patan, has now hundreds of rooms available on different booking sites like Airbnb. Restaurants, coffee shops and hangout places with the look and feel of global outlets are increasing rapidly. Of course, we need to work on our service delivery through better training and appreciation of people's jobs. We see ride-hailing services make it easier for people to move around, and cycling through the city through bike rentals is possible. Google maps work well. Since every Nepali household has someone within their family or friends in different parts of the world, it is not like 30 years ago when Nepalis were unaware about places, countries and people. Social media platforms allow people to jump to places and seek information virtually. Nepal is still considered safe by tourists compared to many other South Asian countries, with a history of handling international tourists for over seven decades from a safety perspective.
It is always important to reflect when events like KT 2077 end in a roaring success. It opens opportunities to take it one notch up, and encourages others to think of more creative stuff.