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Sushma Rajbhandari was heavily inspired by the paintings of Bhajuman Chitrakar (also known as Bhajumacha Chitrakar), since childhood. And it was Bhajuman’s painting, which made her wonder what it would feel like to pursue this field. From an early age, she got art (sketching) lessons from Govinda Dangol. Later, she pursued art at the Nepal Lalitkala Campus, following her keen interest in the field. Besides Bhajuman’s paintings, the mythological stories of Lord Ganesh has also influenced her a lot, which we can see today in her paintings. Artist Rajbhandari has done numerous solo art exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. Today, she is associated with the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), serving as Head of Paintings department. With her experience as an artist, she felt the need of the policies on art licensing and registration in Nepal and is working on the same. Excerpt:

Please tell us about your role in this institute and the initiatives you are working on.

Thangka of a buddhist deity

Photo: Pixabay/ Argh

The main objective of this institute is to develop art and the culture of respecting Nepali artists, just like in foreign countries; they are highly respected there. In this attempt, NAFA organizes various exhibitions to showcase the talent of artists across the country. We also help to hold art exhibitions abroad, and publish research books. And as I am the head of the Painting Department, art forms like printmaking, abstract paintings, modern paintings, traditional paintings like Thanka, Pauwa, etc. and all things related to them fall under my responsibility.

As an active board member, I participate in making policies and programs for the development of Nepali art and artists. The council members themselves put every effort into developing the traditional Nepali art and handicraft resources like bricks, and Nepali Kaagaz. Also, we are working on bringing art licensing and registration for artists in the county, to regulate the field better.

How will this new art licensing and registration policy help artists in Nepal?

In foreign countries, art licensing and registration is already done; it’s a whole system. Art licensing and the registering system will be very helpful to Nepali artists as well. It will give them the necessary identification of being Nepali artists and further help them with their personal and professional artistic journey–especially in foreign lands–and I have experienced that personally. What we have so far is a book, more like a bio-data, that has names and artworks of various artists.

Nepal Academy of Music and Drama (NAMUDA) has already started licensing in the genre of performance art. And, we will begin licensing for artists soon too. But first, we will have to prepare a draft. There are various artists, from newcomers to veterans, in different genres of art. We cannot provide the same license to everyone as it will have no meaning. So keeping that in mind, we are working on the statute, including policies, and procedures for what kind of licenses we are to give, and to whom.

As you said, the draft is there, what kind of policies will be included and what would be the procedure? Do artists know about this?

We are still preparing the criteria. A few of them have been finalized already with parameters like their works, total number of solo exhibitions conducted, among other factors. Other crucial factors include things like ‘Whom to consider as artists?’ ‘How many solo exhibitions must be done for the same?’ Some of them might have studied fine arts, others might be a born artist who has been doing artworks, Thankas, Pauwa, etc. Of course, license for upcoming artists will be very different from the license for veterans, or license for born artists. We are preparing criteria for every category. It will be finalized by the end of this year.

And yes, artists are aware of everything regarding this. Moreover, information can be gathered from our social media sites, websites, emails as well. Meanwhile, we are also visiting different parts of the country, making artists aware of this art licensing process.

What if two or more people paint something or if they work together? What would be the process then?

There might be various such cases. So, an institutional art license will be given to them. If someone has painted it in a group, they will have to register under the institutional category. Even if their artwork is nominated or awarded for an award, then they will be nominated under the institutional category and awarded accordingly in those conditions too.

Do we have enough manpower or artists in Nepal? How is NAFA helping art-entrepreneurs?

Yes, we do have the manpower. At present, there are many art schools and colleges. So, the number of artists, both male and female, has increased. But, female artists are still a few in numbers. Even recently, we organized a painting exhibition named ‘Women Season’, we had to go to the doorstep of women artists and ask them to showcase their artworks for the exhibition.

Having said that,  NAFA has come across many art-based entrepreneurs, though may be not enough. We do our best to help them, either by publishing books, making donations, or even help them open their own factories and hold exhibitions.

art licensing and Amity Exhibition at NAFA

Watercolour paintings by different artists, on display, at the ‘Amity: a collective art exhibition’ organized at the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts, Kathmandu, on September 9, 2019. Photo: Suraj Bajracharya

Besides your responsibilities at NAFA, what are your personal contributions or involvement in the field of art and paintings?

I do not only consider myself an artist but, also an art collector; as I love collecting artworks made by various other artists. I also make paintings, especially inspired by Lord Ganesh. And I love sculptures too and have collected some refined pieces at home. So far, I have visited 25 countries and observed the artworks there, even collected a few. The art sector has developed a lot in countries like Japan, South Korea, the USA, and in the Europe, among others. They value art and respect artists a lot. This has given me a lot of ideas to improve the art sector in Nepal.

I was the Head of the Handicraft Department earlier at NAFA. Even back then, I was focused on uplifting and encouraging the artwork and handicraft of Kuswadi, Kiranti, Raute communities, who have a legacy in handicrafts.

You have been in this sector for many years. What is that one dream you still want to pursue but have not gotten any chance yet?

My dream is to open an art village in Nepal. There are many countries like Denmark, Japan, the USA, where artists have turned a village into an art village, and they are huge. A whole day is not enough to visit the whole village, in fact, we have to board a rickshaw to roam around. I want to create such art village here and I am working on it. But, first I have to finish the art licensing and registration policy for Nepal.

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