Amidst the rows of concrete and steel structures on display at the World Expo in Milan, it was Nepal’s pavilion, designed to recreate Kathmandu’s traditional ba:ha that generated much excitement among the eight million visitors of the fair that opened in May this year.
The 27-ft high structure featuring typical Newari houses, garden, and stone sprouts was built over three years and cost Rs 600 million. Raw materials including bricks, stone and wood were all imported from Nepal.
A million people have already visited the Nepal pavilion, and organisers expect the number to double by the time the expo ends in October. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Milan’s Mayor Giuliano Pisapia and first daughters of America, Sasha and Malia Obama are some of the distinguished names to have visited the pavilion.
Nepal’s participation at the expo began in 1970, when king Mahendra led a team to Osaka, Japan. A replica of the Pashupatinath temple built during the fair in 1983 in Munich, Germany helped Nepal garner attention at the expo and since then the country’s pavilion continues to be one of the most visited.
In 2000 Nepal won the top spot at the fair in Hanover and in 2010 was listed in the top ten best pavilions.
“The success of the exhibition is judged by the number of visitors in each country’s pavilion,” says Binayak Shah of Implementing Experts Group (IEG), which has been representing Nepal at the World Expo since 1983. “People only think of Nepal as a poor country. We want to show we have a lot to offer.”
Many of Nepal’s pavilions built for previous expos are still intact. The pavilion created at Shanghai has been transformed into Nepal-China Cultural Center. The pavilion in Hanover has become a tourist attraction and a gathering place for Nepalis in Germany.
Scholar Satya Mohan Joshi says the expo has been an important platform for Nepal to showcase its unique heritage, art and culture to the world. More than 140 countries are taking part in this year’s expo.
Tej Singh Bista, deputy executive director of Trade and Export Promotion Center admits that lack of interest from the government has resulted in Nepal failing to cash in on the world-wide attention it receives at these expos.
The government is responsible for selecting organisers and nominating a representative for ‘Nepal day’ at the fair which falls on 23 September. It hasn’t submitted a name yet.