Printmaking in Nepal: Tracing its origins and problems in today’s world

KATHMANDU: In the Newari tradition, there is a trend to print different images during different religious occasions. For example, the image of snake is printed on paper, that are available in the market during Naagpanchami, then there are patterns on bedcovers that are printed using colour and wooden blocks. These things and more point to the importance of printmaking in our everyday life and printing is not only limited to the Newari tradition.

The Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) organised one-day seminar on ‘Print Making Past and Present’. Three artists — Bhishan Rajbhandari, Santosh Sigdel and Bipana Maharjan — gave Powerpoint presentations at HimThai Restaurant, Jawalakhel on June 29.

Their presentations gave surface level knowledge on the beginning of Nepali printmaking and printmaking in the contemporary context. Rajbhandari’s presentation focused on the history of printmaking. According to him, the term printmaking in Nepali is ChappaChitra which might be derived from the Newari language where Cheapa means a cast from Newari family nowadays known as Ranjitkar who imprints patterns on textiles and dye fabrics. He added, “This description suggests that the caste called Cheapa is related with the term print and tells us about the presence of printmaking culture in our history.”

In Maharjan’s presentation, she focused on the development of printmaking art in the contemporary context of Nepal where she talked about artists who choose to work using printmaking as their medium and how their lack of continuity decreased the possibilities of development of printmaking in Nepal. Sigdel presented his paper on the academic development of printmaking in Nepal and hindrances to its development. He expressed, “The concept of Fine Arts studies initiated from a small room in Tri Chandra Campus as department of painting which later became ‘Juddha Kala Pathshala’ in 1934. This was birth of Fine Arts Education in Nepal. This school was established with the sole aim of producing skilled and capable artists. With the establishment of the school, the whole art sector gradually began to see its way towards development.”

About the seminar Sushma Shakya, coordinator of the seminar said, “It is time for us to do something in the field of printmaking and this is an opportunity for us when things that are not known are coming to light and we could also get solutions to our problems through discussion.”

Ragini Upadhyay Grela, Chancellor of NAFA added, “It is the first seminar on printmaking, which has a huge scope in our country. It is our vision that through this kind of seminars and research work we will be able to publish books for the next generation of artists.”