With barely a week remaining for the Kathmandu International Art Festival, the excitement is palpable among artists from 31 countries who have just touched down in Nepal. What started off as a 12-day exhibit in October 2009 is back this year on 25 November as a month-long, city-wide showcase of eclectic work chosen by international jurors.
"Nepal is one of the most exciting destinations for contemporary art because we have such a rich heritage. We want to promote Nepal as a centre for the arts and hosting a world-class festival is a step in the right direction," explains Sangeeta Thapa, director of the festival.
Modelled after major league festivals like the Venice Biennale and the Sao Paulo Biennial, the Nepali edition will see top international and local artists collaborating on this year's theme of 'Earth/Body/Mind' and transcending cultural boundaries. There will be installations that fill entire rooms, exhibits in stunning traditional spaces such as Mul Chok at Patan Darbar square, and even a multimedia piece projected onto the Bouddhanath Stupa.
Kathmandu International Art Festival
25 November to 21 December
LEANG SECKON, Cambodia
Visitors at the Jawalakhel Zoo will be startled to spot a mythical water creature as long as three elephants. Earlier installed along Cambodia's Siem Reap River, the serpentine giant is made of rattan, recycled plastic, nylon fishing line, and electric lighting and is an updated, recycling-conscious cousin of the legendary naga that, in Cambodia as well as in Nepal, took on a variety of heavenly responsibilities, from forming a couch for Vishnu to sheltering Buddha.
TAKEHITO SHIINA, Japan
Science fiction meets magic in this quirky document of an artist's effort to become a plant. "What would happen,"asks Shiina, "if people could photosynthesise? What would it mean for the economy, natural resources, and human relations?" This oddball question is now a multi-media project that highlights, in often unsettling ways, the place of the human body in nature and the interplay between bodily existence and spiritual feelings. Watch Shiina's documentary at Mul Chok in Patan Darbar Square.
NOMAD WAVE GROUP, Mongolia
4pm, 25 November at Nag Bahal
10.30am, 26 November at the Summit Hotel
MAUREEN BISILLIAT, Brazil
For much of her 81 years, Bisilliat has roamed the Amazon rainforest, camera in hand, recording the faces, lives, and folkways of the indigenous people of her adopted country. Born in the UK, but considered daughter of Brazil, she has created photographs of lasting poetic power that have also been instrumental in the struggle for indigenous rights. Her work can be seen at Siddhartha Art Gallery at Babar Mahal Revisited.
SHEBA CHHACCHI, India
The story is familiar to Hindus: once upon a time, gods and demons came together to churn the cosmic ocean, forcing it to yield a desired potion, but almost destroying the world in the process. Chhacchi asks us to think more deeply about this ancient tale of greed and hidden danger in which even gods can be short-sighted. A highly regarded installation artist and activist, and one of several groundbreaking artists from India in the festival, Chhacchi will install her piece at the Patan Museum.
LOK CHITRAKAR, Nepal
JANET CARDIFF and GEORGE BURES MILLER, Canada
These artists don't paint pictures to hang over the sofa. They create soundscapes, intense and disorienting and dreamlike, loaded onto iPods that visitors can sign out and experience. Visit the National Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) to see how this very 21st century piece interacts with an old Rana palace.
GOPAL DAS SHRESTHA 'KALAPREMI', Nepal
Starting on 22 November, Thursday, viewers can watch award-winning ceramist Kalapremi as he creates 108 'people being cooked and sold' (pakdai bikdai gayeko mancheharu), a sacred number of clay figures, all unique and connected to the earth. He'll work in public until 26 November at Bhrikuti Mandap. The finished work will be on display at the Nepal Art Council.
HITMAN GURUNG, Nepal
Ah, the face mask: an iconic symbol of today's Kathmandu. Gurung's portraits of real people from all walks of life, all trapped behind face masks, raise a timely question: is this how we handle the problems we've made? Do we just stifle ourselves and go on our way? His work will be up at the Nepal Art Council.
SHAHIDUL ALAM, Bangladesh