Kathmandu: Over the past month, visitors to Ratnapark were greeted by a stately mural painted across the wall under the hotspot’s pedestrian bridge.
The artwork, which mostly employed primary colors, was centered around a lotus flower, flanked by portraits of frontline workers—health workers, policemen, morticians—wings of the Nepali flag flowing on either side of it. The message was unmistakable: it wanted to pay tribute to the thousands of frontline workers working tirelessly to contain the deadly pandemic. An yellow banner was tucked just above the mural, labeled “#wewillriseagain”. Seven artists had worked for a week to create the piece, which was completed on May 13.
But on Wednesday, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City wiped it all out, leaving no trace of any color, except for a garish white.
The City’s move has dismayed many, throwing Nepalis on social media into a frenzy.
The mural’s designer, Dujang Sherpa, let it be known that he was “feeling angry” on Facebook. “An artwork created to pay respect to frontliners working day and day out in our service has attracted evil eyes,” Sherpa wrote on the social networking platform. “I am disheartened by the sudden removal of the art without any prior notice.” Sherpa noted that his team had acquired a permission from the office of Ward 28 of the Kathmandu Metropolis.
Nepali Congress, the main opposition party, condemned the City’s move in a press release. “Destroying a work of art created with permission in honor of frontline workers is a disrespect to art and artists,” it said.
The tenure of Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya has been a controversial one. Whether it be the reconstruction of ancient ponds like Rani Pokhari and Kamal Pokhari or the road extension projects, KMC’s moves have attracted the ire of heritage activists.
“KP Oli’s Mayor has shown again and again that reasoning for the general good of our municipality is neither his forte nor his interest,” writer Kashish Das Shrestha wrote on Twitter.
Others took a jibe at the KMC for going after an innocuous piece of art while leaving mounds of trash unattended for days.
Speaking to Nepal Live Today, Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson at KMC, defended the move.
“The permission granted by the ward office can’t be considered legit,” he said. “There must be an approval by KMC. If anyone wants to do wall art in such places then they must first consult with the KMC.”
KMC is reportedly planning to make a new wall art with their own budget. No decision has been made yet, however, according to Dangol.
Dangol’s defence, however, doesn’t sit well with artists. “Street art is basically independent visual art created in a public location for public visibility,” said artist Anamika Gautam. “The artwork in question was created with permission of authority as well. The metropolis’s move lacks respect for art and its value.”
Photos: Social media