In the episode “The Builders” The hapless, sloppy painter, O’Reilly, tries to impress and appease Sybil with the promise of “a lick-a paint, a lick-a paint”…
You have to be a fan of Fawlty Towers to understand this reference. I am, and I could hear O’Reilly’s voice this week as we drove around Kathmandu. Everywhere you look there was fresh paint on walls (and dripped over sidewalks) as the city starts to smarten up its a act in preparation for hosting the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) conference next month. The organization has eight member countries (Nepal, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and basically all the new paint is about impressing the neighbours when they come to visit. The press has promised a government sprucing up of main arteries that foreign dignitaries are likely to travel. The budget seems to be for paint and flowers…not much else.
Work is well underway in our neighbourhood, with mixed results. I am noticing how much cleaner and fresher the city is, but at the same time, they are also painting over impressive artist murals, and slapping the stuff around over old brick walls that looked better with an old patina than a badly applied coat of paint. At least the paint companies are happy! Here are a few photos from the efforts around town near us. It should be noted that all the photos were taken within a five minute period…there are that many people all painting at the same time:
This community water source looked pretty good in old brick. Now it has sloppy white paint all over it. This one’s a fail.
Painting with a buddy
The end of a massive brick wall. Painting between the bricks takes a long time.
This half-painted wall technique is one that I’m seeing a lot. Its either a way of using less paint, or the philosophy could be “why paint the bottom bit that’s going to get dirty anyway?”
One of the smarter efforts
Kathmandu is a very grey, dusty city….especially in the dry season. The problem is compounded by the construction, road works, road creation, road resurfacing and general garbage and mess everywhere. It really is fifty shades of grey (or beige). If something wasn’t grey when it started ….like a bush or a blue car, for example….it soon will be…just give it a few weeks.
But as I glance out from my car window, I do see colour in a few places: the people (especially women with their brightly coloured clothes), omnipresent Coca-Cola corporate red splashed on at least half the small stores and then there’s the murals.
There are a surprising amount of murals all over Kathmandu. And although I can guess at reason why this makes sense, it still always a pleasant surprise when one just shows up on a crumbling wall or hidden away in a corner somewhere. For all its disorder, the city doesn’t have much in the way of ugly graffiti really. But you do see big, bold artistic graffiti, as well as what I’m guessing are carefully crafted, professionally painted political slogans.
Nepali schools are often cheerfully painted bright colours by amateurs to cheer up their grey concrete shells with rudimentary cartoon characters and rainbows. Advertisers paint whole sides of buildings with giant commercials for cigarettes, coke, or beer. But then there’s the dazzling display of professionally painted, fantastically creative, murals by real street artists. Those murals are the real prizes and I am still collecting them as I hunt the city for the next, amazing one. As I write this post, I’ve researched the concept a little and it turns out there’s a whole informal world of mapped Kathmandu murals….a trail to follow!
Here are some tasters for now….but I’ve a feeling a may return to this subject. Stay tuned!
This post participated in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art