Kiran Maharjan (aka H11235) is a Nepalese artist who uses street art to address social issues within his community. Kiran is one of the primary organizers of the Prasad Project, a street art initiative to make a positive impact on Nepalese youth through workshops, exhibitions, and public murals.
Neocha: How did you get into street art?
Kiran: I used to be influenced by classical European Realism, and I’ve always been intrigued by faces. I used to do portraits with charcoal and other mediums before I got into street art. Later on, I would be introduced to the graffiti and street art scene through skateboarding culture, especially the graphics on the skate decks.
I came to a turning point when I started to bring my works to commercial galleries in the city with the hope of being exhibited. All of them turned me down. Some considered me an amateur and didn’t want to showcase my work, while others turned me down because they simply weren’t interested in my style. This rejection became a driving force for me to use the streets as a medium for expression. That was four years ago, and since then I’ve always been active and present on the streets, continuing the process of growth and change.
Neocha: What is the Prasad Project about?
Kiran: The word “Prasad” is a Sanskrit term that means sweet offering that is given during prayers in a Hindu temple. We named our project after this because it’s our offering to the people through the medium of street art. Also, the first hero that we painted as a mural for our project, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, has the middle name “Prasad,” and that seemed fitting with our idea.
With this project, we hope to tackle one of the major contemporary problems being faced in our country: youth migration. Nepal has had a long history of political turmoil in addition to a worsening economic situation. A lot of our young people travel to the gulf and other countries to work as migrant workers in the hopes of a better life and income. Sadly, this has resulted in a brain drain in Nepal, and the bad living standards and unsafe working conditions abroad have only made the situation worse. Every day, the dead bodies of our migrant workers return back to Nepal.
Kiran: “Prasad”是一个梵文词，指印度教寺庙里分发给祷告者的甜祭。将这个名字定为项目名，是因为这项目也是我们通过街头艺术这个媒介献给人们的美好礼物。而且，我们为这个项目绘制的第一个壁画人物，Laxmi Prasad Devkota，中间名也是”Prasad”，这也正好契合了我们的主题。
Neocha: How does Prasad use street art to address the problem of youth migration in Nepal?
Kiran: The project tries to communicate that it’s possible for young people to be successful and to have a fulfilling life here in Nepal. One of our main themes is hometown heroes. Heroes are people who are born and raised in Nepal and have stayed here, making a difference in the country through their respective fields. Through their work, they’ve made a mark on the country, or even on the world. In order to commemorate them and inspire the youth, we paint public spaces with murals of these local heroes.
Since street art is a medium of the youth and so highly visible to the general public, it becomes a very powerful medium to talk about these issues. Street art is relatively new in Nepal, so it also spreads the message that with creative ideas, a DIY attitude, and new mediums of expression, it’s possible to solve our problems. We work with the youth directly, so it makes it easier to get this information out into the community.
Neocha: What are the current and future plans for the Prasad Project?
Kiran: We’re now in the second phase of the Project, and we’ve continued to travel to different regions of the country in order to spread our message. In each city we visit, we conduct workshops with local youth to teach them street art, and we collaborate with them to paint two murals of local heroes. It’s a great way to take the skills that they’ve learned and try them out on the streets. It’s also a way for us to speak to the public about the project, as a lot of people come up and ask us questions regarding the work. Every mural is different and unique because it comes from the vibe of that specific city and its youth. In the end, the work belongs to them. It’s their city and their responsibility, so I think we need to make them understand that.
We plan to do this until the end of 2016, covering five more cities with street art, workshops and exhibitions. We hope to continue the project even after that with new initiatives.