Nepali Times Asian Paints
Life Times
The art of diplomacy

It has been a year since Marcos Borges Duprat Ribeiro arrived in Kathmandu to set up the new Brazilian embassy here, and in that time the artist-ambassador has blended seamlessly a passion for painting with his duties as a diplomat.

Duprat is a respected artist in Brazil with many international exhibitions, and has managed to not just combine two professions, but use his nomadic diplomatic job to influence his paintings with the landscapes and cultures of the places where he has been posted.

At age 67, Duprat says he had returned to Brazil after serving in Tokyo and Washington and other capitals to finally settle down, take care of his family duties, work on paintings, and help set up a diplomatic museum in Rio de Janeiro.
"When the call from my minister came about opening an embassy in Kathmandu, I almost said no," Duprat admits, "I felt it was just too much of a challenge. But within two hours, I had called back and said yes."

The exotic aura of Kathmandu was just too much of a draw, something that had been with Duprat since the 1960s when, while studying in the United States, a lot of his friends visited Nepal and Bali and came back with fabulous tales.

But Duprat did not arrive in Kathmandu all starry eyed, ready to be awed by Shangri La. He started reading up on Nepal, getting briefings and he knew that it was a country in the throes of dramatic change and buffeted by change.
In the past year, as he passes the demolition along Lazimpat road every day, amidst all the rubble his artist's eye sees fleeting examples that the people of Kathmandu are still "linked to the old life, and their psyche is still stable".

But, says Duprat: "As much as you see the beauty all around, you see the beauty in danger. You see the architecture, the temples, the river, and you see so much that should be beautiful, but isn't."

Duprat took a personal interest in designing the interiors of the Brazilian chancery and residence in Chundevi, commissioning local wood carvers in Patan to make lattice windows and tables, bronze table stands and thangkas, and picking just the right design and colours of Tibetan carpets to go with them. The interior looks more like an art gallery than an embassy.

Being a painter also helps Duprat in his work, and allows him to meet Nepali writers, artists, sculptors, and photographers which ambassadors usually wouldn't otherwise. But he does have to drag himself away from the hectic social circuit to work on his own paintings, which he usually does in the evenings.

Duprat's paintings have a narrative of the interplay of light, and how it pervades the landscape outside and inside. Which is why many of his paintings are of wide-open windows, narrow doors, and entrances letting in only a chink of light. And then there are the landscapes of the mind, where Duprat explores how light interacts with water, pebbles, air, clouds, mountains, and horizons. The canvases almost emit a light of their own, they are still life and yet they have a graceful fluidity.

Duprat studied art in Japan's Waseda University and later was posted to Tokyo, and naturally one sees the influence of the subdued tones and understated minimalism of Japanese landscape art. The most exquisite thing for Duprat is the light in Nepal, and this is already evident in some of the paintings he has done after arriving here.

Duprat's technique is velatura where artists use layer upon layer of paint which partly obscures the underlying paint, giving the works a misty, blurry effect that has a dreamlike quality.

Says Duprat: "Kathmandu Valley is blessed with a high level of refinement of the arts. The casting, woodwork, textiles all have an amazing sense of colour and design. Newari architecture has that delicate touch, it's not monumental and overpowering, but aesthetic and built to a human scale."

Asked if he will be having an exhibition in Kathmandu soon, Duprat says: "Paintings have a life of their own. As images, they come to life when they are seen by the viewer. I would love to share my work with the Nepali public and I am working on the details of an exhibition in Kathmandu next year."

Kunda Dixit

See also:
Brazil keen on hydropower

1. Cristina Hebling Campos
I am very happy with the Brazilian Embassy in Nepal! Next year, I will come back to Nepal. Hopefully will appreciate the paintings of our ambassador in Kathmandu. If possible, let me know about the venue.


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)