Lakshmi Prasad Devkota, a Nepali poet, was famous for the forward thinking and generous humanitarian values that manifested through his words. Art Lab, a Nepali art collective, chose to name this project ‘Prasad’ in part because it is their goal to share and educate; two ideals that he held in high regard. Prasad also translates into ‘a sweet offering’, something akin to the art and techniques they are sharing with a younger generation.
The first phase of the project kicked off in April 2013 with collaborations on street art murals as well as gallery exhibitions. The combination of the two mediums allows the artists to share their art with everyone through the street art while still generating enough income to sustain their efforts through the exhibitions. The pieces in these exhibitions, created on canvas and repurposed materials, focused on finding and portraying Nepali ‘Heros’ – cultural figures with whom the youth can relate; simple people who have done creative things. These Hero’s faces manifest through the posters and demonstrate that there is a clear difference between street art and vandalism. They also have the ability to educate anyone curious enough to find out who’s face it is that has been plastered on the side of a building at the not so small size of 9’x12’.
Now in its second phase, the Prasad project is focusing on educating the youth. ‘There are no universities teaching wheat pasting [the technique used to plaster massive posters on building sides] or stencil spraying techniques”, says project director Romel Bhattarai. So that is just what they are doing, holding free workshops that not only teach the theory of these skills but also offer hands on experience through each step. And although Art Lab is based in Kathmandu, the Prasad project is spraying its message far and wide through Nepal, with workshops in Pokhara, and Dharan, as well as Kathmandu. They aim for high levels of community involvement in each area to demonstrate “what can happen when you show street art in a proper way, in a way that the public can understand” says Romel. The ‘proper way’ that he speaks of is a way that tells a story, and that has the potential to spark the imagination. This is especially powerful with the younger generation of Nepali’s, who are growing increasingly frustrated with social and political issues including a shortage of jobs, bandas, and greed driven government corruption.
It’s a group of guys who are the core of the street art scene here in Nepal, and the international nature of street art comes through in them. Nikes & snap-backs (and even western demeanor) are more likely to be seen on them than anything traditionally Nepali. They are making a living with their art and trying to share it with as many people as possible. I can relate, it’s a similar philosophy that I have with my photography. When someone shares their art with you it’s as if they are transferring a piece of themselves and their energy along with the physical medium. Our world, and ourselves, are made from a constant transfer of energy that keeps everything alive. It happens on a microscopic level with the constant degradation and regeneration of our cells, on a physical level where people expel and absorb energy from being in contact with each other, and on another less perceptible level stemming from the energy of the universe always pushing and pulling. Their murals and wheat pasted posters are a huge source of energy, the Prasad project is an education in itself and the heroes they present to the masses are largely unsung in the mainstream culture of Nepal. It’s the underdogs who are having their time to shine, their energy and message lives on even after some of their physical selves have passed.