Art for a cause

The art festival was inagurated by noted Nepali actor Rajesh Hamal (second from right). Also pictured, general manager of Turkish Airlines Abdullah Tuncer Kececi (first from left). Photos: MONA

More than 1,500 children in Nepal are diagnosed every year with some form of cancer. Many of them are treatable, but because of the lack of timely diagnosis and proper treatment, many young lives are tragically lost.

Help from them has come from an unexpected quarter: Nepali artists who have been representing the country’s social issues on canvas, sculpture or digital art.

Earlier this month, 33 of Nepal’s most prominent artists from all genres took part in a live painting performance at the Museum of Nepali Art in the Kathmandu Guest House premises in Thamel. Part of the proceeds generated from the sale went to the oncology ward of the Kanti Children’s Hospital.

Less than 30% of Nepali children have their cancers diagnosed on time, but many of even those are unable to afford expensive treatment.

The art festival was inaugurated by noted Nepali actor Rajesh Hamal, who kick-started the event by painting his own contemporary piece ‘No smoking’ under the guidance of noted artists Kiran Manandhar and Lok Chitrakar.

Renowned contemporary artist Kiran Manandhar with participating artist Sangee Shrestha.

As the artists warmed up to the performance, it was evident that they were producing a diverse body of art with differing techniques. It ranged from traditional pauba and Mithila art to abstracts embodying cubism and conceptual art forms.

But they were all sharing the space and participating in an exercise that aimed to help underprivileged children with hope. Access to diagnosis and treatment is literally a matter of life or death for many young patients.

The art festival coincided with the inauguration of the Kathmandu Guest House (KGH) by renowned ophthalmologist Sanduk Ruit with founder/director of the Museum of Nepali Art (MoNA) Rajan Sakya.

“We are committed to conducting similar events annually to promote art for a cause so that it serves those in need,” Sakya said.

Following the main event on 7 October, the paintings were exhibited at MoNA in the presence of Bishnu Rath Giri, head of the oncology unit at Kanti Children’s Hospital.

Lately, Nepali art has been getting the recognition it deserves with many of them being exhibited at famous museums, art galleries and private collections worldwide. These pieces fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in the international art market, and yet it is rare for contemporary Nepali art to shine at home.

MoNA aims to be a crucible for Nepali art, so that the gallery is an ‘art hub’ in Kathmandu’s bustling Thamel neighbourhood. Such art hubs are common in developed countries including France, Italy, China, and Japan.

Established in 2020, MoNA is Nepal’s first museum dedicated to preserving and promoting Nepali art, especially those of living artists. And this is the first time that a live art festival has been held to support a cause.

“This event is the start of the crucial process of bridging this social and intellectual gap between artists and the general public,” says Sakya. “One need not be an art historian or critique to recognise creativity and beauty, and artists do not differentiate between ethnicities. Art is tangible culture and a living expression of us Nepalis.”

Sworup Kant Adhikari

Paintings can be viewed online here.