an emergent collective

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.

The 1971 exhibition consequently traveled to Darjeeling and was held at the premises of Loretto Convent.

By 1981 the artists had established themselves within Kathmandu’s art ecosystem and the regional circulation of their works was facilitated by budding cultural institutions in Delhi, Dhaka, and Fukuoka.

“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 ।


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