Street art in the form of graffiti is a new phenomenon in Kathmandu today. Stand in front of the painting and feel the message that the artist is trying to convey through creative works of art.

We have all lived through the phase when there were Bollywood adverts and political slogans plastered on the walls along the streets of Kathmandu. The release of a new movie or date to a certain Bandha was communicated through street walls. But today we see the same space taken up by artworks all around Kathmandu. Street art in the form of graffiti is a new phenomenon in Kathmandu today.

Graffiti is writings, scratches, drawings or paintings made on a surface in a public place with a paint brush or spray paint. Graffiti can take the form of paintings, drawings or merely words. But it is usually considered vandalism if done without the property owner’s consent. What we see on the streets can be generalized as graffiti but what we didn’t know is that graffiti is an illegal act. Any artwork done on the streets with permission is not considered a graffiti but mural art. The only difference between graffiti and mural art is the word ‘permission’. Both are real pieces of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface like canvases. Graffiti in Kathmandu took off in 2011 following a visit by international street artist Bruno Levy. Levy came to Nepal to make the walls colorful and artistic. He was one of the first from outside Nepal to come to Kathmandu and create works of art for his 2011 Bigfoot project, which included an art installation of a large papier-mâché foot at Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site. His attempt to beautify the streets of Kathmandu was noticed by our youths around the valley and unleashed a new phenomenon that transformed the streets of the city.

Art is created and is an expression of the artist’s imagination while showcasing his/her technical skills. Art has been our identity since ancient times. Religious mural art had and still has an impact on the world even today. Fresh minds are coming together and taking the initiative to bring about a change in the art scene in Nepal. Kolor Kathmandu and Art Lab are two active groups of artists who are continuously working to create a beautiful Nepal. Street art has not only given Nepali artists a platform but also showcases Nepali religion and culture. Furthermore, it brings awareness about social taboos, social causes and current issues in a more effective way. 

The mural art has a deep meaning as well as a- message. We were struck by a second devastating earthquake on 12 May 2015. There was loss of life and property. The two sets of couples crying depicts them mourning their loss. The others holding shovels and a pickaxe signify what has happened can never be forgotten but can be slowly replaced with the joy of rebuilding. The joy of having mural art is priceless, acceptance is all that matters.

The inspiring work of Bruno Levy took Nepali street art to a whole new level. Artists from all over the world are coming to Nepal to display their skills and to impart their own messages through their creations. Not all people are pleased with street art; there are those who oppose it vehemently. They must be made aware that it’s not just paint on a wall, but an artist’s creative work and many of them make a statement or carry a message. Street art does not make a wall look dirty, but gives it a meaning and a beautiful presence. The instability in the country has always been a problem, yet most of us have remained silent which is why young minds are collaborating in order to bring about a change through art. Stand in front of the painting and feel the message that the artist is trying to convey through creative works of art.