KATHMANDU, Dec 26: Art as a means of message dissemination is unbeatable. Replacing political slogans and cheesy film posters, the compound walls of many places in the capital are now better looking and serving a good purpose at the same time.
On World AIDS Day on December 1, Artlab drew a mural on one part of Nepal Law Library. YUWA approached Artlab because art has become a popular medium in Nepal and it is youth friendly.
Shraddha Shrestha, Creative Head of Artlab, says, “We showed them some sketches prior to the painting. The mural shows the importance of using condoms as well as the fact that people with AIDS are also human.”
The colorful mural cannot be missed by any passerby, and its vibrant colors demand at least one close look. Shraddha remembers that people came up to them and asked questions about what they were doing there. “So we had to explain it to them,” she says. Artlab has put up the pictures of the mural online and many people have appreciated the social message in it.
In the mural, we see a person inside a condom and that Sachet Gurung of YUWA explains is a way of showing that sex is still a taboo subject. “There’s a line, ‘Kinchhan, chalauchhan, tara kura gardainan’ and we wanted to show that society is still bound. People aren’t comfortable to talk about sex,” he states.
Visual messages are very strong and public space is very powerful, says Kailash Shrestha, visual artist and initiator of Artudio Nepal. “We’ve been using public spaces in a proper way to disseminate messages,” he says.
Artudio Nepal and a group of 50 students from The Excelsior School and Whitefield School celebrated Global Handwashing Day on October 15 by the walls of Tri-Chandra College at Jamal. The group painted a creative message advocating hand-washing. Shrestha says, “It’s an effective and practical way for students to learn, and through this process, they never forget what they learn.”
For Yumika Maharjan, 15, and Sadhana Khadgi, 14, of Whitefield School, it was a fun experience. Yumika says, “It was fun. We had lots of time to be creative and paint.” Sadhana’s friends have told her that it’s a good piece of art. She says, “Health is important and giving a message through art is good because the drawing can be seen by everyone.”
Likewise, Shrestha says that uneducated people can also get an idea about what the message is through the painting. This method is a creative platform to express ideas as well as to communicate social messages. What better way to spread messages about important and serious issues than through street art?
Uterine Prolapse is a condition where the womb slips out of its normal position, sometimes dropping so far that some part of the tissue drops outside. If untreated, this can cause complications in the bowel, bladder and sexual functions. It’s important that people learn about it. And isn’t looking at the painting in Thapathali more interesting then reading about it?
The painting depicting the messages about uterine prolapse is done in Maithali style. Artudio researched about the condition, talked with women who had gone through it and used their expression on the walls of Thapathali.
Taking an important but not always a highlighted health issue to the visual form has created an interesting stir. While this may not give out all the information, it does make the viewer think about it.
Neer Bahadur Yakha, who works in a publication house, says, “I believe it’s noticeable and people do take a look at the walls. Personally, I like the street art at Thapathali. Many people haven’t seen Maithali art and it’s a good way of bringing both the art and the message to people’s notice. There was a painting about education in Kupondole which I really liked, but it’s not there anymore. Now the wall is covered in political slogans.”
Combining art and social messages is a good idea because every kind of person will look at the art, says artist Erina Tamrakar. About six months ago, Kasthamandap Art Studio painted a small strip of a wall in Pulchowk. The wall now visually talks about child marriage. Tamrakar says, “We did a workshop with some children from CWIN. We talked to them about child marriage and asked their views about it. It was only after the workshop that we went ahead with the painting.”
Film posters and political slogans aside, most walls remain bare. Boring slogans and tacky posters add no beauty to the surroundings while street art justifies its presence.