By: Kriti Shrestha
Sometimes, newness is just as much of a relief as familiarity. A few graffiti artists have begun to make their mark on the walls in the streets of Kathmandu. For those familiar with the previously dismal condition of those walls, this change is pleasant. As Sworup Nhasiju notes in his article Reimagining the Streets (The Kathmandu Post), graffiti, both an ode to and a call for freedom and expression, “rejuvenates public space”.
Nhasiju talked to four graffiti artists who are “interacting with the public through their colors and ideas”. What he has uncovered hints at what just might be the start of a new wave in street art in the capital city of Nepal – free of shoddy commercialization and full of artistic ingenuity. In the graffiti works seen in Kupondole, Lalitpur, artists have also left subtly political messages and called out for unity. “We make the nation,” they say.
If Kathmandu is one “fitting muse” for graffiti artists, Kabul could be yet another. Jason Burke in The graffiti guerillas of Kabul (The Hindu) quotes Afghan graffiti artist Qassem as saying “The idea is to make people ask questions”. Art does effectively arouse curiosity. It could also break the monotony of a humdrum, everyday existence. In Kabul, street art has expressed dissatisfaction at former leaders and responded to police injustices.
Perhaps the true purpose of street art in Kabul doesn’t need to be strictly questioned, though. In a chaotic city, true expression is simply refreshing when found. Or, “disturbing”, which British graffiti artist Chu says is the whole “point” of the “big painting” in Graffiti Art Brightens War-torn Kabul (South Asian Outlook).
In both these Southasian capital cities, the law does not, in fact, allow this form of art. Creating graffiti on property not owned by the artist is a work of “vandalism” in most countries. Yet, be it the thrill of crossing legal boundaries or of maintaining an anonymous yet provocative profile on public streets, graffiti allows for a delight that has earned it a pop-culture status.
And why not – people do like to be heard out. With graffiti people can either be subtle or in-your-face, but they will not be ignored. Why is graffiti so compelling? Perhaps, it is simply the sheer scale in which graffiti is normally created. Also, mystery is powerful. And, at times, to break forth of barriers is a thing of beauty.