Kathmandu has a long-standing problem of “nothing to do.” Friday nights here mean bar-hopping in Thamel (and now Jhamel), and Saturdays include trips to the mall to watch yet another bad Bollywood blockbuster.
Enter: The City Museum Kathmandu. Finally something to do. Less than a month since its opening, this permanent exhibition, art gallery, gift-shop, café, seminar venue and concert space is drawing crowds.
Located in the dinner-friendly side road off Darbar Marg, the Museum was set up by photographer and writer Kashish Das Shrestha. He first came up with the idea in 2004 while talking to his grandfather Dwarika Das Shrestha of Das Studios.
“"I wanted the museum to be a place where people could come and see the urbanisation of Kathmandu from the mid-1900s through the medium of photography,” explains Kashish, “Our Gallery is a space dedicated to contemporary arts and film screenings, and we are always looking to showcase new talents."”
Spread over three floors of an elegant and functional building designed by Prabal Thapa, The City Museum Kathmandu makes a notable addition to the Valley’s contemporary cultural landscape. Although it had no choice but to expand vertically because of lack of space, it is a great to place to spend an afternoon moving between floors. Here’s how we did it:
1 to 2pm
The Fig Café
Named after the large old fig tree that it overlooks, the Fig Café (pic, above) is the first thing you see when you enter the building. The cafe serves an impressive range of organic Nepali coffee, sandwiches, pastries and baked goods. Chill with a glass of iced coffee (tastes similar to Chikusa’s) especially after a ride on a packed microbus in the heat. There is WiFi in case you want to check-in, and a work-station for those interested. A friend and I had made big plans to cozy up with our books here, all of which was forgotten once the food and the drinks arrived. The plan for next time is to stick to the plan.
2 to 3.30 pm
The Museum and the gallery
After quenching your hunger and thirst, head over to the third floor which houses the gallery and the museum space. It is designed to resemble a traditional Newari neighbourhood, with bricks collected from demolished houses laid out as flooring, and wooden walls divide the space in order to give one a sense of walking in alleys. A corner of the room recreates a bahal.
The images in the Museum are primarily from its founding archives of Dwarika Das Shrestha. A few images from the Chitrakar family, who were court photographers, are also included. The Museum is currently working to include works of other Nepali photographers. Kashish’s own images of modern day Kathmandu also make a small appearance. A small collection of art pieces painted during the Khumbila benefit held last week was on display in the gallery during our visit.
3.30 to 4pm The Museum Shop
Once you have relived the history of Kathmandu, head to the shop (pic, above) which has a decent collection of local art products by companies like Himalyan Atelier, Karma Coffee, and Kaligarh and Aksha, which both create ethnic jewelleries with a modern touch.
This week, the museum hosted the Indian Film Festival. An exhibition of the digital prints of Rabindranath Tagore’s original paintings is also on until 25 May, as a part of the Indian Cultural Festival 2014 organised by the Indian Culture Center, Embassy of India, Kathmandu.
Landscape of memory