KIAF 2012

As printed in The Week.

Ninety-two artists from 31 countries, 27 days, 16 venues, a 3-day symposium and a number of performances – the second Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF 2012) titled ‘Earth│Body│Mind’ is bigger, better and busier than its first edition held in 2009. The theme-based triennial art festival organized by Siddhartha Arts Foundation officially began on Sunday, November 25.

Talk about hosting the second Festival began in late 2010 by which time Director Sangeeta Thapa had already decided on the theme.
“Earth│Body│Mind is dedicated to one of the 21st century’s most critical issues – climate change and its effects on environment and culture,” she announced at Sunday’s inauguration ceremony. “The Festival is a triennial that will raise one critical social concern in each of its editions, with the intention of using art as a tool for social change,” she added.

The first KIAF in 2009 was organized by Siddhartha Art Gallery, which was founded by Thapa in 1987.

“Encouraged by the success of the festival, the Siddhartha Arts Foundation was established in October 2011 as a non-profit organization committed to promoting contemporary arts in Nepal and in establishing Kathmandu as an international contemporary arts hub,” Thapa shared about KIAF’s mission.

In addition to the establishment of the Foundation, another major change was brought to the Festival. Unlike the first KIAF where artists were invited to take part, the Festival this time had an application process. Over 170 international artists and 60 Nepali artists submitted their statements and concept notes in order to be considered for KIAF 2012. While international applicants could enter an existing work, all Nepali artists had to create new artworks for the Festival.

A five-panel international jury selected the final artists and their works which range from drawings, paintings, sculpture and photography to huge site-specific installations, performances, audio/visual installations and interactive spaces. And each artist has a different perspective to offer about the Festival’s theme. It is this diversity of artworks, combined with the charm of multiple (and new) exhibition spaces that makes KIAF 2012 exciting, vibrant and a festival, in its true sense.

KIAF 2012 takes you from Metro Park in Uttar Dhoka and Nepal Academy of Fine Arts in Naxal, across the city through Nepal Art Council and Siddhartha Art Gallery in Babar Mahal, all the way to Central Zoo and Patan Museum in Patan. The scale of the Festival makes it difficult to write about it all in one article and therefore, this week I will focus on few of the works at two venues, Nepal Art Council and Metro Park. The two spaces combined have works by 49 artists, which is over 50% of the total participants.

On the top floor of Nepal Art Council in Babar Mahal is Gopal Das Shrestha’s (Nepal) ‘People Being Cooked and Sold’ which consists of 48 ceramic sculptures. Each piece is a mold of a bicycle chain and crank set with heads of different mythical creatures, comic characters and imaginary faces. Outside on the grounds of the Council, Shrestha and his students from KUart are continuously firing new sculptures to add to the series, and therefore, ‘cooking’ and ‘selling.’ The work was initially displayed during the Handicraft Fair at Bhrikuti Mandap in Kathmandu, where viewers looked at it with mixed reactions. Most of them were inquisitive yet confused.

“As a person, I feel that I have multiple personalities and thus the variety of faces of the sculptures,” explained Shrestha. The mold of the bicycle, on the other hand, hides the complexities of its mechanical parts – just like our exterior bodies that hide our complexities. “In order to live, I have to sell myself. Everyone has to sell themselves and that is also where all destruction begins,” he added.

His sculptures are eerie and discomforting to look at, similar to Sunil Sigdel’s (Nepal) paintings in ‘Infiltration of Darkness.’ Black figures float inside a stomach of a dog that stands like a man; a crow morphs into a hand that holds a gun and people transform into weird creatures. Sigdel’s paintings refer to his own personal angst against economic crisis, environmental changes and political incompetence.

Nearby Sigdel’s paintings hangs a beautifully constructed sculpture of Shola flowers by Promotesh Das Pulak. But the image is that of a gas mask.

“Shola flowers grow in swamp area and there is a community in Bangladesh whose livelihood is based on this plant. But environmental degradation is forcing these people to change their professions,” shared Pulak about his work. Pulak wears a mask to protect himself, to escape from pollution, but at the same time also hopes that we won’t need to wear a mask one day.

“Encapsulated-7” – Promotesh Das Pulak (Bangladesh)

“How long can I hold my breath…’ by Hitman Gurung (Nepal) has 88 portraits of people wearing masks – their faces in grey monochrome, backgrounds made of strips of plastic bags and each wearing a mask with thorny spikes made from paper. He simply questions each viewer: ‘How do you feel when you wear a mask?’

“How Long Can I Hold My Breath…” – Hitman Gurung (Nepal)

A flood engulfs a city in ‘In the Midst of Darkness Sunlight Persists’ by Priscila De Carvalho (Brazil). Her painting is lively and colorful, yet grim when you look closely and watch people trying to escape the flood. Interestingly, she uses black poles and wires that are an integral part of Kathmandu’s landscape.

“In the Midst of Darkness Sunlight Persists”– Priscila De Carvalho (Brazil)

The grimmest picture, however, is presented by Vibha Galhotra (India) in her paintings in ‘Sediment’. The huge boards stare back at you in dark splashes of what looks like black paint. The work description reveals that it is actually sediment collected from the Yamuna River in Delhi.

“As soon as the river enters Delhi, the water becomes like black ink from industrial sewage,” she writes. And locally, we all have witnessed that very well in our own rivers.

Moving on to Metro Park in Uttar Dhoka (next to Nepal Investment Bank Limited), Sheelasha Rajbhandari (Nepal) also explores the path of Tukucha River in Kathmandu, the most polluted tributary of Bagmati River. It is shocking to see that the river flows right under the city, probably through drains, before it mixes into Bagmati.

The Blauschimmer Artist Group (Germany), Noelene Lucas (Australia) and Lala Rasaic (Croatia) all also explore water bodies in their drawings and video installations.

In their drawings titled ‘The Ocean is Our future’, The Blauschimmer Artist Group talks about the importance of seas and oceans as ‘shared global heritages and the threat of climate change’. A multi-media installation with silkscreen prints and a video, Rasaic’s ‘The Damned Dam’ takes its roots from an actual breaking of a damn on Modrac Lake in Lukavac, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Lucas’s ongoing project ‘Atlas of Water – Rivers, 2012’, she writes ‘is an attempt to create a video atlas, a methodically assembled inventory of water.’ Eight monitors on the wall show videos of clean water flowing. These are from different rivers in the world. Peaceful and contemplative, Lucas urges one to think of the future of these rivers.

Given the theme, many of the artworks related directly and indirectly to water bodies and their degradation, all over the world. ‘Jonah’s Fish’ is a video projection which narrates a story of a fish dying in a desert. The fish here however, is embodied by a group of people who wear masks and wrap themselves up in sheets of plastics. “Plastic, for me, is a symbol for all pollutants,” states the artist Fereshteh Alamshah (Iran).

Red fetuses and babies cramp up, as if fighting for space to survive in, in ‘My Expectation! My Achievement! My Future!’ by Sunita Maharjan. Her painting hangs next to a huge ball of balloons, which also have images of fetuses drawn on them. A red light glows within the installation. A soft blow of air moves the balloons and they appear fragile. Like the balloons, the Earth is in a fragile state and life is struggling to find a shelter.

“My Expectation! My Achievement! My Future!” – Sunita Maharjan (Nepal).
Photos: Bikash Karki

Artist and illustrator Adeel Uz Zafar (Pakistan) has collaborated with writers Buddhi Sagar Chapain (Nepal) and Rumana Husain (Pakistan) who have jointly written a children’s story called ‘Perana and Lal Peela’. A bird, a little girl and a fish become friends and look into each other’s lives through one another’s eyes. Together, they see and feel the effects of temperature rise, deforestation and pollution.

“Perana and Lal Peela” – Adeel Uz Zafar (Pakistan) in collaboration with Buddhi Sagar Chapain (Nepal) and Rumana Husain (Pakistan).

Presented beautifully on pedestals, ‘Perana and Lal Peela’ is a story targeted at younger audience, but enjoyable to all. Small steps have been placed in front of each pedestal for children to step up on and read the book.

Metro Park as an empty space in a commercial building is an enviable exhibition venue because Kathmandu lacks such a gallery – a wide open space which can be used in multiple ways. It has been well designed, constructed and curated for KIAF 2012. It would be a dream-come-true for artists, were it to become a permanent gallery space. Nonetheless, one can still only enjoy it while the Festival continues till December 21, 2012.

List of artists

Nepal Art Council, Babarmahal
Asha Dangol (Nepal)
Blane Destcroix (USA)
Dominic Sansoni (Sri Lanka)
Fraz Abdul Mateen (Pakistan)
Gopal Das Shrestha (Nepal)
Hitman Gurung (Nepal)
Jean Antoine Raveyre (France)
Juha Arvid Helminen (Finland)
Jyoti Duwadi (USA/Nepal)
Mahbubur Rahman (Bangladesh)
Mekh Limbu (Nepal)
Narayan Prasad Bohaju (Nepal)
Peeter Lauratis (Estonia)
Prasiit Sthapit (Nepal)
Probir Gupta (India)
Promotesh Das Pulak (Bangladesh)
Prsicila De Carvalho (Brazil)
Sagar Manandhar (Nepal)
Sarawut Chutiwongpeti (Thailand)
Sunil Sigdel (Nepal)
Tarshito (Italy)
Tian Zhao Chen (China)
Vibha Galhotra (India)
Wolfgang Stiller (Germany)

Metro Park, Uttar Dhoka
Adeel Uz Zafar (Pakistan)
Aleksandra Chciuk (Poland)
Anni Kinnunan (Finland)
Atefeh Khas (Iran)
Blauschimmer Artist Group (Germany)
Christin Bolewski (Germany)
Fereshteh Alamshah (Iran)
Josephine Llamas Turalba (Phillippines)
Juong Lee (Korea)
Khaled Hafez (Egypt)
Kirti Kaushal Joshi (Nepal)
Lala Rascic (Croatia)
Lantian Xie (China)
Lok Chitrakar (Nepal)
Mamoru Abe (Japan)
Nameera Ahmed (Pakistan)
Noelene Lucas (Australia)
Nomad Wave (Mangolia)
Pala Pothupitiye (Sri Lanka)
Sheelasha Rajbhandari (Nepal)
Sudharsan Rana (Nepal)
Sunita Maharjan (Nepal)
Svetoslav Teodorov (Bulgaria)
Trevor Amery (USA)
Yasir Hussain (Pakistan)

To be continued next week
For festival details log on to


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s