KALĀ KULO is an initiative that nurtures the flows and frictions of creative labor. We experiment with speculative praxis - where acts, thoughts, and relations are reimagined - to irrigate new constellations of ideas and kinships. Working across fields and frameworks of knowledge production, we embrace fluid, collaborative methodologies. In this digital articulation, we invite you to explore an emerging assemblage of materials within a vast landscape of cultural narratives.

  आवरण: टेक वीर मुखिया, लेखक: भूपी शेरचन, घुम्ने मेचमाथि अन्धो मान्छे, साझा प्रकाशन, संस्करणहरु: चौथो (२०४१), ललितपुर; छैटौं (२०४६), काठमाडौँ; नवौं (२०५१), काठमाडौँ; दशौँ (२०५५), ललितपुर।

Those of us who grew up reading Nepali literature may have come across the mysterious “मु” scribbled on the corners of Sajha Prakashan's books. Thousands of covers for Sajha, one of the oldest publishing houses in Kathmandu, were illustrated by Tek Bir Mukhiya. Self-taught and trained in fine arts, he was adept at experimenting a wide range of visual mediums and genres. Early works of Mukhiya from the 60s to the 80s highlight the artistic labor and ingenuity of varied printmaking and design techniques.

Coming of age out of Kurseong and taking on odd jobs at Calcutta, it is imperative to situate Mukhiya’s oeuvre within a distinctly postcolonial history of print culture of the region. The mass printing, circulation, and consumption of modern literary texts meant that Mukhiya had to adjust to a grueling demand of churning out artworks overnight while still adapting and innovating with technologies such wood cuts, block prints, and zinc plates. Yet he was able to produce a kaleidoscopic visual sensibility that defined Nepali literature’s luminary texts, including those by Bhupi Sherchan, Parijat, and Indra Bahadur Rai.

 Artwork by Sheelu Pyari, potentially created during her time at the Banasthali Vidyapith as a student of fine arts, shows use of technique, style, and medium mostly associated with the “wash” style in the subcontinent, 1959. Dimension: 30 x 40 cm

“शिलु प्यारी प्राय: प्रचलित धेरै शैली र शिल्पविधिमा काम गर्नु हुन्छ, तर “वाश” उहाँको प्रिय शिल्पविधि हो। विषय र शैली अनुकूल माध्यमलाई प्रयोग गर्ने कुरामा उहाँ रूचि राख्नु हुन्छ जस्तै भावप्रधान विषयको चित्रिकरण जलरंगको माध्यमले “वाश” शिल्पविधिमा, लोकपरम्परा (लोकनृत्य, लोकगीत, लोककथा जस्ता) का विशय टेम्परामा, अमूर्त शैली र रचनाप्रधान विषयको चित्रणमा तैलरंगको माध्यमला‌ई उहाँ प्राय: अपनाउनु हुन्छ।”

नारायण बहादुर सिंह, “समसामयिक नेपाली चित्र कलाको इतिहास,” नेपाल राजकीय प्रज्ञा-प्रतिष्ठान, २०३३ साल, काठमाडौँ, पृष्ठ २७३

Sheelu Pyari with her sister (lower-right) and early studies of still life at Banasthali Vidhyapith circa 1960
Sheelu Pyari held a Diploma in Fine Arts from Banasthali Vidhyapith, Rajasthan, 1960
How do archives emerge? In what forms can we encounter them? Sheelu Pyari’s personal collection offers us an intimate yet fractured glimpse into a life of an artist mapped transregionally across pedagogical and national art institutions. Educated in the immediate aftermath of India’s independence, Sheelu Pyari spent much of her formative years being simultaneously trained in fine arts and economics in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. This tin box contains photographic remnants - almost all framed slightly off kilter - of some of the early studies of still life, portraiture, and watercolor painting she created as a student.

What is characteristic of Sheelu Pyari’s personal collection is a sort of thinness of archives and yet, from a select few images and catalogs, the shift from a filial space to an institutional one becomes evident as she takes on administrative roles with the executive board of the National Association of Fine Arts (NAFA) in the 60s. Posing in front of a camera with figures such as Bal Krishna Sama, Tej Bahadur Chitrakar, Lain Singh Bangdel, R N Joshi, and Pramila Giri, or participating in the First India Triennale (1968) as a Commissioner, Sheelu Pyari was firmly situated in the emergence of these spaces of artistic transmissions.

There is a part of Sheelu Pyari’s life that is more in the public eye - her political life as a member of the parliament in the National Assembly between 1995-2001 and chairperson of Sarvodaya, a non-profit social welfare organization. And yet, she remains an obscured figure. It is through her fragmented collection, one can get a semblance of her life, as an artist, an administrator, and a politician. This patchwork of materials also speaks to the archival impulses through which we choose who to remember and how.

In the wake of Nepal’s increasing access to the outside world in the 1950s, many individuals ventured abroad to learn and bring back novel epistemologies and pedagogies; with the intention that such practices would help “modernize” the country. Across the bureaucratic spectrum, a new cohort of specialists arose, which included artists sprinkled in departments working on curriculum development, architectural modeling, and cadastral mapping. In 1971, four such artists, who had all just graduated from the Sir J.J.School of Art in Bombay, decided to set up a collective in Kathmandu. They named the group SKIB-71, each letter an initial of the founding members: Shashi Bikram Shah, Krishna Manandhar, Indra Pradhan, and Batsa Gopal Vaidya.

For over two decades, until the death of Indra Pradhan in 1994, an exhibition was held every year. The collective’s activities coincided with much of the vexed Panchayat period, and in effect underscores the complex nature of royal patronage within Nepal’s modernist scene. The SKIB archives — composed of catalogs, photographs, artworks, correspondences, news clippings — speaks to a mid-century moment where novel artistic expressions took shape to form Kathmandu’s distinctive and cosmopolitan aesthetic sensibility spanning across music, literature, and visual culture; in addition to offering delights such as branding à la Beatles, an enviable donning of wide frame glasses, and snippets of their notorious picnics.

“जहाँसम्म नेपाली चित्रकलाको विकासका लागि भैराखेको सामुहिक प्रयत्नहरुको कुरा छ – यस सन्दर्भमा [स्किब-७१] को उल्लेखलाई उपेक्षा गर्न सकिदैन। वास्तवमा यो कुनै औपचारिक कला संस्था वा संगठन होइन। नेपाली चित्रकलाको विकास र आफ्नै विकासका लागि पनि सामूहिक प्रयत्नलाई वांछित र आवश्यक ठान्ने विचार भएको चारजना युवक कलाकारहरूले गत पाँच वर्षदेखि सामूहिक रूपमा आफ्ना कलाकृतिका प्रदर्शनीहरूको आयोजना गर्ने गर्नु भएको छ। … यस समूहको भविष्य बारे कुनै पनि कुरा किटान गरेर भन्न सकिदैन तापनि यस समूहले गरिआएको प्रयत्नले आधुनिक चित्रकलाको आन्दोलनलाई गति दिन महत्वपूर्ण भूमिकाको निर्वाह गरेको तथ्यलाई स्वीकार गर्नु पर्दछ।” 

नारायण बहादुर सिंह, “समसामयिक नेपाली चित्र कलाको इतिहास,” नेपाल राजकीय प्रज्ञा-प्रतिष्ठान, २०३३ साल, काठमाडौँ, पृष्ठ २०३।

made possible with generous funds from the Mathema family

  archives in collaboration with

  Batsa Gopal Vaidya
  Bhupi Sherchan Collection
  Bibhakar Shakya
  Indra Pradhan
  Krishna Manandhar
  Lain Singh & Dina Bangdel Collection
  Shashi Bikram Shah
  Sheelu Pyari Karmacharya Collection
  Tek Bir Mukhiya
  and the families of the artists

archivist: Laxmi Tamang
manager & web designer: Bishal Yonjan

Copyright of materials retained by original creators. Materials presented are intended only for educational and non-profit purposes. For enquiries on copyright, reprints of images, or appropriate citation formats, please contact us.

आवरण: टेक वीर मुखिया, विक्रम र नौलो ग्रह, २०३९

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