Space Invaders in Kathmandu!

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ May 10th, 2016. Filed under: Nepal.
space invader in Kathmandu

The center of Thamel is being watched by space invaders … I managed to photograph one here

Have you seen any space invaders in Kathmandu?

Bear with me on this one as there’s more to it than just a title. I’ve seen them before, space invaders in Kathmandu. But, I just passed by. Kathmandu is full of weird, quirky things so sometimes walking by is best.

It wasn’t until I was updating my Kathmandu City guidebook that I came across another space invader in an unusual position high up in Ason (old city). It looked cute. I took a photo of the little 4 legged creature. Then about 20 minutes later I spotted another one only it was blue.

In case you are wondering I’m not talking about living creatures here. I’m talking about one-foot square space invader tiles. Space-invaders as in the video game space invaders from 1978 (source).

The question was why were there space invader tiles all over Kathmandu city? Were they mistaken as gods? Was it a local artist? Or was it something else?

One of the tiled space invaders from the French artist

One of the tiled space invaders from close to Indra Chowk

Ask a local!

I showed the two photographs I had of the tile space invaders to some locals. I got everything from explanations of the temple behind them to the iconic symbols were “ghosts”.

Space invader over a shop

Space invaders appear in many non-descript places around Kathmandu – locals generally have no clue what they are

Ask the internet

A little digging online confirmed that they were indeed space invaders. Though I do think some are rather pac-man like. But who put them there?

A space invader above a market stall in Ason

A space invader above a market stall in Ason

A world wide space invader artist

It wasn’t long until I tracked down what was going on. There’s a French artist known as “Invader” (source). The incognito artist has covered 65 cities in 33 countries. Everywhere he goes he puts up a series of pixelated art based on the game space invaders.

space invader right beside a large temple

One of my favorite space invaders right beside a large temple to the left – it’s probably been photographed millions of times and no one picked up on it

A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts, a Parisian art school the artist is quoted as saying that the pixelated characters from the game lend themselves well to being duplicated on tile. Then came the “invasions”.

Space Invaders around the world

31 cities in France have been “invaded.” Including: London, New York, Hong Kong, Varanasi, Tokyo and of course Kathmandu!

Crime or art?

The “Invader” has been arrested on multiple occasions and spent over 22 nights in jail. Some people don’t like these little quirky tiles. Others’ won’t admit that they do. In Orange county USA a building owner had “Invader” arrested, removed his work then promptly preserved the tile work!

Some space invaders were destroyed in the 2015 earthquake

The artist arrived in 2008 but some space invaders were destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. I searched the rubble around here but someone must of have taken the tiles away.

Reception to Invaders work

Invader is a hacker of public space it would seem. However his work has brought life to many a dull working day in big cities. A small little tile work above the routine daily commute has prompted many to preserve them.

An inspirational hack on the monotony of daily life in a big city

This space invader has been covered up

This space invader has been covered up unapologetically by a Chinese sign … I’m tempted to lodge a complaint about it damaging artwork …

World “Invader” tours

There are also tours in many cities, including Paris to follow a set path Invader made of these tiles. On his website he sells maps showing where the tiles are in various cities.

Where to find space invaders in Kathmandu?

Invader put up his tiles in Kathmandu during 2008. The map is nearly USD$250. I didn’t buy it at that price. I did however look through some of my Nepal city guides and came up with a few showing the space invaders.

I then went on my own heritage walk in Kathmandu and purposely found some more.

Boring concrete pedestrian bridges are even decorated by space invaders

Boring concrete pedestrian bridges are even decorated by space invaders (hint it’s near Rani Pokhari)

Watch out for the Space Invaders in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a huge blend of old and new, quirky and religious, bizarre and unknown. If you every go for a walk around the city and spot one of these colorful little space-invaders, then you’ll now know what they are!

A friendly space invader in Kathmandu

A friendly space invader in Kathmandu to look out for!

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