Feature: Graffiti artists in Nepal now include women


by Bibbi Abruzzini
KATHMANDU, March 5 — Until very recently street art in Nepal was a male-dominated vocation but an increasing number of female Nepali artists are now changing that.
“Street art is blossoming in Nepal. It’s a positive step that a lot of people are getting out on the streets, painting and expressing themselves,” Sneha Shrestha, one of Nepal’s first female graffiti artists, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
A gigantic stylized face of a Hindu god stares at passers-by from a wall in Kathmandu. Not far is a group of youngsters with spray cans in their hands painting a nearby wall with portraits of their favorite characters.
‘Graffiti’ or ‘street art’ is turning walls in Kathmandu into outdoor galleries, showcasing the thoughts, expressions and visions of Nepali people.
Shrestha first developed her artistic inclination when she moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 2007. While in Boston, Shrestha channeled her own creativity by exploring the graffiti scene which was still at an embryonic stage in Nepal.
Now, the main elements inspiring her unique style are her native Nepali script, Turkish calligraphy and the Boston graffiti scene.
“It’s a positive and negative mix in terms of the reception here in Nepal. There are people who appreciate street art whereas others perceive it as vandalism,” Shrestha said.
In Nepal, city walls are defaced with film posters, advertisements and painted campaign announcements and few mechanisms are in place to prevent street art. In Shrestha’s experience, the reaction of the police to this emerging art depends on how their day is going.
“If they are having a bad day, they are going to make sure that you are having a bad day too,” she said humorously.
Shrestha, 26, is about to open Nepal’s first Children’s Art Museum whose goal is to promote painting among the youths and veer them away from vices like taking drugs and drinking liquor.
“I have an 18-year-old brother and I feel that it’s not completely his fault if he gets into trouble after school. That’s because there is no space for youth to go, express themselves and be creative. With nothing to do, they smoke, drink and get themselves into trouble,” Shrestha said.
According to Manoj Thapa, a street art enthusiast, stencils and sprays are real indicators of what Nepalese really want. Graffiti artists paint on walls the frustration of the general public.
“Through their murals, artists are not simply experimenting with creativity. In Nepal, street art meets a real need to express a malcontent, a message, and often a political opinion,” Thapa told Xinhua.
According to Thapa, this form of art is done in public spaces to create an impact while interacting with a diverse urban public. Statements — text or visual — become part of the urban space to convey an important message or beg for action by the authorities.
In Nepal, street art does not explore domestic issues alone. Climate change, sexual harassment, peace and order, and the position of women in society have been portrayed in street paintings.[db:内容2]