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Street art with altitude: Exhibition shows off colourful Nepalese graffiti

A series of photographs of colourful street art goes on display on Thursday at the 1961 Coworking and Art Space. Ali Al-Nasani
A series of photographs of colourful street art goes on display on Thursday at the 1961 Coworking and Art Space. Ali Al-Nasani

Street art with altitude: Exhibition shows off colourful Nepalese graffiti

A photography exhibition opening next week at the 1961 explores a street-art scene not too different from Cambodia’s: that of Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ali Al-Nasani first travelled to Nepal in 2013 to teach German. As a photographer, he is interested in what he sees as a rapid “explosion” of street art around the world. “It is changing the images of cities – and its interpretation ranges from vandalism to political expression to high-quality art,” he said this week.

In Kathmandu, Al-Nasani found himself drawn to the small capital city’s growing number of large-scale murals. He began documenting them, and has returned regularly to take pictures of the work created since he moved to the Kingdom to work for a German NGO.

The resulting exhibition, The Silent Explosion, features 20 of Al-Nasani’s photographs.

Kathmandu, a city of just over a million, does not have the sort of politicised or commercialised street-art scene found in South and Southeast Asia’s metropolises.

Because of this, Al-Nasani argues, it is pure. “[In Nepal], no pressure of commission exists for street artists,” he explained. “The works of art were never created to be sold, so the only goal is to communicate.”

In this way, the works that Al-Nasani documents also resemble those in Phnom Penh – or even Siem Reap – where a small group of young artists (and foreigners) have taken it upon themselves to cover the city’s walls, usually fairly apolitically.

Opening night will feature Nepalese food, a Nepalese DJ and a discussion with young Cambodian street artist The Koy. In July, the exhibition will travel to Phnom Penh’s Meta House.

And then it will be on to the next body of work: Al-Nasani has already begun photographing the murals going up around the Kingdom – a project which has no doubt shaped the perception of his new home. “Since I’ve started to take photos of street art, I look at a city differently,” he said.

The Silent Explosion opens on Thursday, June 9, at the 1961 Coworking and Art Space, #211 Osaphear Street, at 6:30pm. The exhibition runs through July 14.

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