Kathmandu is a beautiful city rich with a lot of wood-crafted old establishments and historical temples, not to mention astoundingly alluring views of mountains and landscapes. This is perhaps the best place in South Asia to host an art event with an international character where renowned and emerging artists from around the world got together to showcase their artworks. Yes, we’re talking about the two-week long Kathmandu Triennale where journalists, art enthusiasts and collectors from all over the world were also invited.
After the first two editions of the Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF) in 2009 and 2012, the third edition was supposed to be held in 2015. But the earthquake on April 25 made it more imperative to recover the economy and country from ruins first. That’s why this delay.
Organised by Siddhartha Arts Foundation and curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, artistic curator of Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK) Ghent gallery, Belgium, the third edition of KIAF, now known as Kathmandu Triennale, started from March 24 and continued till April 4.
Artwork by Ronny Delrue and Sanjeev Maharjan
On March 23, during the curator tour at Taragaon Museum, Van Cauteren was showing a large group of artists, art critics and journalists artworks from different corners of the world. Then we were taken by the Triennale van to Babar Mahal where Nepal Art Council was situated. Naturally, every discussion was about arts but the focus shifted to Nepalese artists Prithvi Sreshtha, Hit Man Gurung, and Bhuwan Thapa, and Colombian artist Oscar Murillo’s special works -- “The Europeans are coming”.
Prithvi Sreshtha is a performance artist and a visual artist as well. He believes art is inseparable from our daily life. He picks his subject of art from his surroundings, and from political issues too. He presented his video work by projecting it on to the surface of a white pillow instead of using any screen.
Works of 70 artists from different countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Belgium, Germany were displayed mainly at Siddharth Art Gallery, Taragaon Museum, Nepal Art Council and Patan Museum. Contemporary art was mixed with forms of abstract, conceptual and feminist arts in their works. Apart from paintings and sculptures, photographs, installations, audio visual presentations, symposiums and short films were also incorporated in the festival till 4th April, 2017.
Eating the City by Song Dong
Bangladeshi artist Mahbubur Rahman’s work was exhibited at Nepal Art Council in Babar Mahal. Rahman presented his thoughts dividing a room in two parts. People entered the room thinking it was a bedroom as there were a dressing table, a showcase, a chair, a bed, a makeup box, hair ribbon etc. But if one observed carefully s/he would find the mysteries unraveling and discover the room belonged to someone having a transgender identity. “Hijra” we call them here in Bangladesh. Rahman has been working on third gender people for quite some time now and his works on the subject have been displayed both at home and abroad.
Along with Rahman, Bangladeshi artist Tayeba Begum Lipi’s work and photographer Tushikur Rahman’s “The sudden walks” were featured prominently in the festival. The artist couple, Rahman and Lipi, also discussed their works in a talk at Special Symposium on March 31.
Though people from the third gender face stigma in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, their condition in Nepal is different. Side by side with installation, Rahman has made a video on the life of Tirthaman, a member of Nepal’s transgender community. Talking to this writer about his art project, he said, “I have worked on transgender people and am still working on them in various projects in Bangladesh. When I was invited to present some of my works here in Kathmandu, I thought about working on Nepali transgender people. Though I was a little confused at the beginning, the dual life of Tirthaman gave me direction.” Tirthamahn’s family life with his wife and son, and his life in the transgender community were simultaneously projected in two videos on two separate screens.
Artwork by Bidhta KC
The photo story of Tushikur Rahman displays the hidden story of Kathmandu. Within seven days Tushik discovered and spread the different extract of the city and it’s regular life. Tushik quips, “Every city has its own character and composition. As I practise photography as a medium I always observe moments. The moment that we see during our walks becomes glimpses and disappears. In this work I tried to capture those disappearing glimpses which for me in a way represents a character of the city.”
Curiosities of a lot of people were piqued when Tayeba Begum Lipi, in an open space at Patan Museum, decorated the exterior of a room with numerous multicoloured blouses while inside the room was a magnificent video presentation. She made a hijab
using steel blades and set it hanging from a wall, but in the video she was seen wearing the blade-made hijab
herself! Considered as a whole, the work was Lipi’s protest against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which was why the blouses, supposed to be hidden underneath, are exposed while the hijab
, signifying coercion and violence through blade, was placed inside.
The Patan Museum also featured works of Belu Simion Fainaru (Isreal), Carole Vanderlinden, (Belgium), Waseem Ahmed (Pakistan), Sunita Maharjan (Nepal) and Saurganga Darshandhari (Nepal), among others. Saurganga showed the symbiotic love between a mother and a daughter through her “My mother’s Purse.”
Tushikur Rahman’s photographs were showcased at Nepal Art Council along with the works, among others, by Alice Fox (UK), Francis Alys (Mexico), Bidhata KC, Manish Lal Shrestha, Sujan Dangol, and Sanjeev Maharajan (Nepal).
Artwork by Tyeba Begum Lipi
Artist Bidhata KC embellished a gigantic structure placed over the three floors of the Nepal Art Council. The artists made a contemporary “copy” of the Machhindranath chariot. In reconstructing the chariot with modern industrial materials, the artist questions the link between (religious) traditions and the situation of the city today. She says, “My work is a reflection on my experiences of our socio-cultural realities. I am always on a quest to find hidden meanings in things that surround me and hence, wherever I am or wherever I go, I take my creative lens with me and later portray such observations and realisations through my paintings and installation work.’’
Sanjeev Maharjan, residing in Kathmandu, connected with Ronny Delrue, who lives in Belgium, in an interesting way. They have been corresponding via drawings and letters for the past year between Kathmandu and Ghent. Last year Sanjeev visited Ronny’s studio in Ghent, Belgium. This year the Kathmanu Triennale brought Ronny to Kathmandu and facilitated the collaboration between the two artists. They searched for their camaraderie while working in “Dialogue depth.”
A visitor watching Tushikur Rahman's artwork at Nepal Art Council
Chinese artist Song Dong does not believe that art can only be seen or felt. So he made extensive use of chocolates and biscuits to create his “Eating the city”, which was presented for the audience in the inaugural event on March 24.
There was Nepal’s Amrit Karki, who chose the wall of 21 aligned buildings of Kirtipur as his canvas. He painted big red quadrilaterals on the front side which seemed like a big fort. Then there were Dina Bengdel’s “City/Home:Built/Unbuilt,” which was about immigrants of Nepal and Qatar; “Art of Journey” on Nepal Sa Ko community from Polish artists; a group performance art called “Being in a Body”; “Letters From Baghdad” by Iraqi artist Salam Atta Sabri; “Biteka” from Belgian artist Honore’ d’O; “Upheavals” by Bengal Foundation and many more. Under the curation of Tanzim Wahab and Hadrien Diez, eight Bangladeshi artists including Dhali Al Mamoon, Dilara Begum Jolly and Shishir Bhattacharjee showcased their works there in Park Gallery.
(Translated by Kenny David Rema)
Ruhina Ferdous is a journalist at the Bonikbarta.