Asia Art Archive (AAA), in collaboration with Siddhartha Arts Foundation (Kathmandu) announces the closing of Mobile Library: Nepal, a project that has circulated over 600 books and reading materials on recent art from across Asia to artists, art practitioners, students, and educators in Kathmandu. Launched officially in Feb 2021, this is the fourth iteration of the Mobile Library project initiated by AAA, with books acquired by the team and generously donated by publishers and arts organisations from across the world. A series of discursive and educational programmes have activated the materials, and demonstrated that libraries are not static infrastructures—they can be spaces for gathering, conversation, and creative inspiration.
The books in English, Chinese, and Nepali were curated thematically, keeping in mind the urgencies of the art community in Nepal, with emphasis on innovation in contemporary art of traditional and historical art forms, gender and representation in art, art in the time of crises, and collectivity. The library was hosted by independent arts organisations and three major arts universities in Kathmandu. In this time, we hosted fifteen workshops around printmaking, zines, art writing, storytelling, a pop-up exhibition, and thirteen reading circles that brought people together fortnightly to discuss key issues in the books from the perspectives of the region.
A series of three Inter-Archives Conversations were conducted online in collaboration with archives in Nepal, hosted fifteen archives working in and for South Asia to explore forms, infrastructures, and the instituting of archives in the region, and shared about their work where less visible and more diverse histories are documented and made accessible to publics. What’s in the Artist’s Library?, another series of online conversations, opened up a number of artists’ and scholars’ personal collections in Nepal for intimate discussions. So far, the library has received over 1,400 visitors onsite and online.
Highlighting the year-long programme Fellowship for Art Educators in collaboration with Srijanalaya, a local art education organisation. Six emerging artists and recent art graduates joined and together they were able to expand their network and learn about the possibilities of art education in the field. They referenced the library books as starting points; and through a number of workshops with their peers, they found the experience formative to their future pursuits in contemporary art.
“Mobile Library and the fellowship provided me an opportunity to think broader as an art educator and taught me impactful ways to share my skills and knowledge to a wider audience. The experience has not only helped me grow as an individual artist but also motivated me to become a team player. I personally feel much more confident, and learning together with other fellows was rejuvenating.”
—Kripa Shakya, Student Fellow, Mobile Library: Nepal
After the conclusion of the project in early Jun 2022, the books and the modular bookshelves will be handed over to the Central Department of Fine Arts, Tribhuvan University (Kathmandu) as a resource for their multidisciplinary art curriculum and the wider arts community, and Siddhartha Arts Foundation will ensure continued activation of the library. At this final destination, a series of celebratory concluding-week programmes will be held for the local community, including an exhibition that “harvests” the art and writing generated from engagement with the library, panel discussions with archives and libraries in the region, and workshops with and for art educators.
With an aim to promote Nepali art writing and make it accessible to all, a Bibliography project was introduced to locate reading materials on art in Nepal which were published before 1999. Guided by AAA Researcher Sneha Ragavan, and managed on the ground by Deepmala Maharjan, the process included research to locate and digitise selected materials, develop a system of cataloguing as well as targeted programmes on using the materials. This forms a crucial and accessible resource for those interested in investigating modern and contemporary art from Nepal. The list along with the digitised reading materials will be made accessible to art and archive organisations in Nepal and beyond, along with representation of Nepali art writing in AAA’s larger Bibliography of Modern and Contemporary Art Writing of South Asia.
“I first visited the library with the expectation of finding books on Asian art as I had been struggling to find resources for my classroom curriculum. Later I also came across several books on art and activism in Asia which was a topic I was teaching then. Ever since, I have been a regular reader of the library and have adapted the library’s reading circle in the classroom, which has made research more interactive among students. I am glad that the library is being donated to the university as there’s an obvious need and these books are not easily available in Nepal.”
—Pak Bahadur Thapa, Lecturer, Central Dept. of Fine Arts, Tribhuvan University
Mobile Library: Nepal has built a bridge between AAA and the art community in Kathmandu, and second copies of materials collected in Nepal will travel to AAA’s library in Hong Kong, enriching its representation of Nepal for international audiences. Cross-cultural collaborations and conversations will continue to grow.
Download the high-res images: https://link.aaa.org.hk/3lMX1ew
A catalogue of the books at Mobile Library: Nepal is publicly accessible on Librarika—please see a selection here.
Mobile Library is a periodic initiative organised in partnership with cultural collaborators in different countries throughout Asia—particularly those facing issues in the domain of arts infrastructure, censorship, and limited resources—to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas. Initiated in 2011 at Sàn Art in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the project was further developed in Sri Lanka in partnership with Raking Leaves in 2013, followed by Myanmar in partnership with Myanmar Art Resource Center and Archive (MARCA) from 2014 to 2015. In 2022, Mobile Library: Nepal builds on the Kathmandu Triennale 2077 curatorial team’s research efforts and conceptual contributions.
ASIA ART ARCHIVE
Asia Art Archive is an independent non-profit organisation initiated in 2000 in response to the urgent need to document and make accessible the multiple recent histories of art in the region. With one of the most valuable collections of material on art freely available from its website and onsite library, AAA builds tools and communities to collectively expand knowledge through research, residency, and educational programmes. As AAA celebrates its twentieth anniversary, we are grateful for everyone’s continued support in making a more generous art history possible.
ASIA ART ARCHIVE IN INDIA (AAA in I)
Asia Art Archive in India was established in New Delhi in 2013 and relocated to a new office space in 2020. AAA in I organises projects, workshops, and programmes to build archival collections and educational resources, and to facilitate dialogue and critical thinking around modern and contemporary art from India. AAA in I works in partnership with multiple individuals, organisations, and institutions in the field that share AAA’s values. AAA in I is a public charitable trust registered u/s 12A & 80G and is generously supported by the Thapar Public Charitable Trust.
SIDDHARTHA ARTS FOUNDATION
SAF is a non-profit that promotes and supports the development of Nepali arts, using an inclusive lens and approach. SAF is involved in establishing lasting educational exercises with a focus on art research, practice, criticism, and management. SAF is the principal organiser of the Kathmandu Triennale, Nepal’s premier international platform for global contemporary art.
Srijanalaya is a non-profit, nongovernmental organisation established to create safe spaces of learning through the arts. They imagine a Nepal where every child has the tools necessary and the support to express and be heard. They are a growing community of artists and educators in Nepal who offer creative mediums as an alternative approach to rote-learning and static textbooks.