Street Art in Kathmandu

Frame for street art in Kathmandu
The start of a wonderful piece of street art I watched being created in Kathmandu – Throughout this post you can follow the steps as it gets completed

The street art scene in Kathmandu is starting to emerge

Nepal is known for it’s beautiful mountains, mysterious temples and fantastic wildlife. New treks emerge and Nepal’s animal conservation is among the world’s best.

Nepal’s Malla period is renown for creating a huge artistic boom in Nepal. Then there was a lull. Boring concrete buildings are now built just about everywhere will little thought to the aesthetics of the city. Street Art has emerged, as it has in many parts of the world, as a one-part solution.

Street art of oppression in Kathmandu
This street art of oppression has been around for years. Interestingly when one building painted over it, the artist moved it and repainted it again.

These photographs were taken over the course of one year. I will not reveal where the street art is located in this post because, as you will discover, some people want it removed. Instead, let’s look at art that’s brightening up the city once more.

Street Art in Kathmandu shows no prejudice

Manjusheree and Bhairab street art
Manjusheree and Bhairab take center stage on this street art

Manjusheree is a Bodhisattva who is said to have created the Kathmandu Valley be striking his sword into a mountain and releasing a lakes water to reveal the valley.

Bhairab is a fierce representation of Shiva but also has many forms. One of these dates all the way back to the known Kirati period in Nepal.

The street art above shows no prejudice for either belief nor religion. Both are represented in stunning art work that brightens up this corner of the city.

The Lakhey Street Art

Lakhey street art in Kathmandu
The entire side of this building became the canvas of this street art depicting the Lakhey and his family from the 2015 earthquake

This Lakhey street art became the center of much publicity last year. Laxman Ranjit was the man behind the mask of the Lakhey. He was giving blood on April 25th 2015 when the earthquake struck.

He ran home but his wife Nilu did not survive.

The artist Martin Travers created this mural in their honor. The artwork has become a symbol of pride for the neighborhood.

Today one hopes modern construction will not cover it up. You may notice to the side is a space invader! Another hidden symbol of art in Kathmandu from years ago when an artist placed space invaders throughout Kathmandu.

Symbols of Nepal represented on street corners

As sadhu image
As Sadhu image decorates this corner post in Kathmandu

Sadhus are everywhere in Kathmandu. But their images are strangely absent from many works of art. It was refreshing to come across this image on an-otherwise dull building corner.

Watching street art being created

I sat in a cafe watching an artist create this wonderful sketch of a shrine. I didn’t know what he would be making. But it was enough to have me come back to the cafe every week until it was complete.

Newar street art girl being created in Kathmandu
The street art begins to appear and tell a story

On this day the Newari girl began to emerge in color.


Street art banned in Nepal?

Street art on a metal door shutter in Kathmandu
Street art appears on many private buildings in Nepal

Street Art is not banned in Nepal, though permission is needed from a building owner before work is carried out.

I talked with a street art artist in Kathmandu about how their work was viewed by Nepali society today.

The artist did not want to be named. Not because they were doing anything illegal, but because laws constantly change in Kathmandu.

Street art of a lady drinking from a hiti in Kathmandu
Some street art in Nepal deserved to be preserved like this wonderful depiction of a lady drinking from a hiti (water spout)

There’s a difference between street art and random graffiti he said. Some people don’t get that. They see someone with paint drawing on a building and call the police straight away.

Despite having permission, we still get hassled.

Abstract street art in Kathmandu
Eclectic images make up some street art scenes in Kathmandu

Artists sometimes get a commission from the building owner. Sometimes they know what they want, sometimes they tell the artist to do what we feel like. Having a letter from the building owner helps when people start questioning them.

Nobody could answer what happens when the art is finally washed away. Though the prospect of another commission is a possibility.

The oldest street art in Kathmandu?

Street art image from planet of the apes
An street art image from planet of the apes?

I came across this street art years ago of what looks like an depiction from the movie “Planet of the Apes”.

I may even be so bold as to say it’s from the original movie and not the remake. Though that may be wishful thinking on my part. Perhaps the oldest street art in Kathmandu is the Bhairab statue in Kathmandu Durbar Square?

The Newari Girl Street Art nears completion

Newari girl artwork image in Kathmandu
The Newari girl at this stage of the artwork takes form

From a shrine to a sketch to the image of girl.

While this image alone is stunning, the final one is equally good.

Street art in Kathmandu is something we can learn from

Tom and Jerry making friends street art
Tom and Jerry making friends .. lessons can be had from street art in Kathmandu

Most of the street art in Kathmandu is about the “art” or image itself. However some street artwork tell stories and give positive messages.

Tom and Jerry are old rivals, but here they are shown giving one or the other an ice cream.

Phora Durba (American Mission Association) wall mural
Phora Durba (American Mission Association) was once a off limits, do not photograph or linger area … today they seem to have learned a lesson with this mural

Over ten years ago I mentioned the harassment tourists got outside the American Mission Association near Thamel in Kathmandu. Back then if you so much as raised up a camera near this wall or the gate you’d have a guard running after you and ordering you to delete the photograph.

The “private” grounds house recreational facilities for many diplomatic staff or those with “passes”. It’s located right beside a popular tourist spot. You could see inside the facility with Google Maps, but you could never take a photo of it without the very real fear of being dragged inside. It was just a really dull regulation that caused distress to many. It even garnered a spot in my guidebooks as a warning to avoid.

A lesson learned?

Then in 2017 they seemed to get the message. A mural was painted outside and the regulations were relaxed. You can even take a photo of the mural!

I hope they purchased several copies of the guidebook as memoir of the past! It’s now safe to walk by this place and enjoy some art along the way.

A better promotion of heritage?

This epic street art depiction focuses on Newari and Kathmandu heritage in ways that no tourism promotion has come close to. Yet it sits about some rubble.

Street art showing Kathmandu's heritage highlights
Meanwhile this street art is left under some rubble but does a better job at showing Kathmandu’s heritage highlights than any tourism promotion!

It seems there many people in Nepal who know how to highlight their heritage better than others. This one bland wall is now a cultural highlight that you can see tourists stopping by to admire and ask about the different places in it!

The Newari Girl Street Art is Completed

The final image of the Newar Girl in this street art is both stunning and intriguing.

Newari girl image depicted in street art
The Newari Girl Street Art completed in Kathmandu

Hopefully, street art in Kathmandu will continue on. New generations of artists will emerge and create not only street art, but other forms of art that may one day rival that of their ancestors who made the Kathmandu Valley renown for art.

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21 Replies to “Street Art in Kathmandu”

  1. Everytime I visit your site there’s something new and different. Thanks for making my weekly grind that much better!

  2. Striking artwork. My children would enjoy some of this while us parents can enjoy the older buildings. Is most street art in the inner city or suburbs?

    1. It’s in the old city and suburbs. Artists have not gone near old temple but just use plain concrete to display the art. So yes, you can make some thing like and old and new art hunt to keep everyone happy.

  3. Some great street art here. I hope someone helps to preserve this art. In many places it’s simply left to wash away. Banksy being an exception where people highly value his art

  4. These street arts look awesome. Thinking that some people want it removed is kinda sad.

  5. Lovely pictures you captured in Nepal. They must look very interesting in-person.

  6. Not only street art but other various cultures, arts and essence are also equally wonderful in Nepal

  7. there’s a lot of beautiful arts in Nepal.Even if i only saw it in picture, its very interesting. the creativity of artist is very wide and amazing.. i hope in the future i can see it with my own eyes someday. And there’s plenty to discover the beautiful city of Nepal.

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