Interwoven ties:Festivals, art and Nepali culture

Art Issue 141 Aug, 2013
Text by Isha Gharti / Photo: ECS Media

In Nepal, festivities have been a favorite topic for artists since long and these continuations have been instrumental in endorsing the various facets of Nepalese culture.

Culture is one of the strongest virtues of Nepal, frequently manifested through various rituals and festivities throughout the year. Almost all our festivals have their origin in religious practices and have been around for centuries. These festivals are thus a genuine documentation of ancient beliefs and understanding of life. And it is due to these festivities that traditional arts came into being in Nepal. Interestingly, traditional art in turn became a powerful medium of documenting culture. In recent times however, artists have begun not only depicting culture and festivities in their artworks, but have started interpreting it in order to bring new understanding towards the continuity of history.

One such exhibition titled Utsav by young artist Sagar Manandhar was held at the Siddhartha Art Gallery in June this year. As the title suggests the exhibition was based on celebration of various festivities. An appreciator and practitioner of abstract styles, Sagar’s canvases were dominated by vibrant but harmonious hues in lines with the colorful celebrations of the festivals. Here, the artist is confident in uniquely interpreting the festivities and culture he’s witnessed that subtly continue within him. It can be said that his work is a modern documentation of festivals that generations to come will interpret to understand prevalent culture.

Several art activities in the past have also dealt in interpreting and redefining Nepali festivities. Two years ago Future of History I, a collaborative art project that researched on the Rato Matsyendranath festical was started by artists like Ashesh Malla, Saroj Bajracharya, and Mukesh Malla among others. The event was successful in bringing to light the origin of this significant festival through paintings, installations, writings and theatrical pieces.

Right from ancient times, the connection between art, culture and festivals has been quite evident. Previously, in order to access religious and cultural aspect to the general public, priests and kings introduced various images in sculptures, architectures and paintings. However, all the ancient arts have a collective opinion and are mostly based on idealism. Much later with Nepal’s mobility towards modernity the artists here began to individually interpret the cultural aspect of Nepal into their works. Whether through simple depiction or varied interpretations of festivals in art, various genres of art have been one of the most reliable and expressive medium that document, interpret and redefine culture and in the process add to the richness that is Nepali culture.

Did you know?

  • Sagar Manandhar took active part in festivals that he painted on in order to understand the energy and vibrancy of the celebrations.
  •  Future of History I played on the myth of Rato Matsyendranath’s arrival in Kathmandu to free the valley from a dreadful drought.
  •  Other artists who are known for potraying festivals and culture in art are Surendra Pradhan and Kasthmandap group of artists.