Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

The Kala Salon is the newest haven for art lovers with green hearts in Kathmandu

All photos: SUMAN NEPALI

A dedicated exploration of natural dyes in artwork. Reusing discarded items to produce art. The Kala Salon in Chhaya Centre in Thamel is the newest haven for art lovers with green hearts. 

On a lower level is Foraging Chroma by Nepali fashion designer Meena Gurung. The exhibit reminds one of a home décor store with the walls adorned in intricately artful fabric, only much more vibrant. Meena Gurung has woven each fabric from natural materials such as plants, leaves, and barks of trees.

Alternative lifestyle, alternative art
Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

Founder of Bora Studio, Gurung studied fashion design in Ireland and was set to follow in her chosen path. But when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka that was supplying apparel to Louis Vuitton and Zara collapsed in 2013, killing 1,134 mainly women workers, everything changed.

Wracked with guilt, Gurung realised she was part of an industry that promoted wasteful and exploitative fast fashion, contributing to a superficial lifestyle and to environmental degradation and climate breakdown.

Alternative lifestyle, alternative art
Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

Upon returning to Nepal, Gurung started experimenting with natural dyes. Through trial and error, she mastered the techniques to produce vibrant organic colours and textures.

She uses naturally dyed cotton sheets made via an iron bath process as her canvas. Eucalyptus and guava leaves and invasive species are then used as printing tools. Over the past seven years, Gurung has moved through Dolakha, Nuwakot, Tanahu, and Chitwan collecting materials and inspiration.

Alternative lifestyle, alternative art
Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

Fallen leaves of invasive species are a prominent theme in her work: collected from paths inside Nepal’s community forests. The dyes are also on display at the exhibition, and Gurung is on hand to explain her techniques. 

“In today's world, we need to think critically about what we're leaving behind for future generations. How are we shaping the world, and how can we live more consciously,” says Gurung. “There are always alternative solutions available. By being more mindful of our behaviour and attitudes towards living, we can make a positive difference.”

Gurung credits Sophia L Pandé, a fan of her work on Instagram, for encouraging her with the exhibition. Pandé who is also the founding director of The Kala Salon recognised the artistry in Gurung's creations. 

Says Pandé: “Meena’s work transcends fashion, it's art. People need to see this.”

Gurung herself hopes that seeing the work firsthand will spark lifestyle changes that are required for human beings to have smaller ecological footprints.

On top of the airy expanse of the Salon, Italian artist Cinzia (pictured below) awaits with her exhibit Zero to Sunya, a mixed-media exhibit using photography, paperwork and copper.  

Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

Cinzia, a globetrotter originally from a now-deserted village in Italy, finds herself constantly drawn back to Nepal. Her travels fuel her artistic spirit, she collects unique items and transforms them into captivating creations. The copper jewelry she crafted in Italy has journeyed with her across the world and now finds a home in this exhibition.

Cinzia defies categorisation as a mere jewelry designer or artist, embracing all art forms. A standout piece is a surprising combination of hard paper, a face mask, and cable wires found on a busy road in Kathmandu. These transformed elements create a captivating figure with "hair" fashioned from the wires, resembling a tree with leaves (top photo).

Alternative lifestyle, alternative art
Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

 “Wherever I travel, I carry a piece of myself. And I seek out kindred spirits, people who share my passion for creation,” Cinzia explains. “This exhibition isn't just a showcase of my efforts, but a testament to the collaboration with my friends who have refined my work and introduced me to new techniques.”

Another installation here titled Purusha-Prakriti is crafted from salvaged cardboard and metal mesh from a construction site, showcasing beauty in unexpected places.

Alternative lifestyle, alternative art
Alternative lifestyle, alternative art

Both exhibitions at the Chhaya Centre leave a lasting impression and invite open interpretation, prompting viewers to question wasteful and energy-intensive modern lifestyles, demonstrating the potential for artistic expression to inspire positive change.

Says Sophia Pandé: “Cinzia's exquisite jewelry and Meena's hand-dyed shawls transcend mere function. These wearable artworks hold a value equal to that of a traditional canvas, serving as powerful reminders of the transformative power of artistic expression.”

Foraging Chroma by Meena Gurung

Zero to Sunya by Cinzia

Everyday 11am to 6pm

Until 24 March

The Kala Salon, Chhaya Centre

Alisha Sijapati


Alisha Sijapati is a correspondent at Nepali Times. With over a decade of experience she specialises in cultural heritage reporting with insights into socio and geo-politics. She holds an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies from Central European University. Alisha has made significant contributions to various newsrooms in Kathmandu. Beyond her journalistic endeavors, she is deeply engaged in discussions about the theft of Nepal's stolen heritage.