The Ups and Downs of Illustration in Nepal

April 6, 2017

Artists are artists by nature not by profession. That is their primary nature. Turning it into a source of income is just bonus. Secondary.

Promina Shrestha is an artist whose specialty is children’s book illustration. She teaches art, she researches about art and, despite all adversities, she is a strong supporter of art in Nepal.
Shrestha feels that there’s a very low level of recognition for illustration in Nepal.

Anyone can copy or use your artwork. Meaning, if a street artist paints something on a wall, anyone may simply photograph it, print it on T-Shirts and sell them.

The law provides you with copyright protection.  You can register your work at Nepal Copyright Registrar’s Office in Kalikasthan, although it’s not compulsory. Yet, the law is weak when it really counts. In many foreign countries, when a publisher re-publishes or reuses an illustration, they must pay royalties to the artist, unless they buy the artwork as well as its copyrights. However, in Nepal, with a one-time payment, the institution can use the artwork as many times as they want to, in any way that they want to. And unless you’re working with professionals or people who actually value your work, financial imbursements are quite poor.

A big drawback is that illustration books are not available for leisure purchase in the mass market. Such books only circulate amongst school curriculums and subscriptions of NGOs and INGOs. Mostly, people have an impression that Nepalese illustration books lack in standard. This automatically decreases exposure of illustrations and illustrators.

Another back draw of illustration in Nepal is that many publishing companies have a low editing standard. Printing is based on language use and everything else – the story, plot, techniques, content – is undermined, which could lead the following illustrations to be similarly poor in standard.

However, situations have improved in recent years with increased exposure of the discipline amongst younger artists and professionals. Modern day publishing houses offer encouragement to new artists. International festivals such as Planet Nepal, Photo Kathmandu and Kathmandu Triennale, which is happening currently, have increased in frequency, popularity and quality. Quality improvements are evident in terms of work, style and techniques. Such festivals also help connect local and foreign artists and many Nepalese artists have started going abroad for residency.

Shrestha is persistent in her work for art in Nepal. She is an explorer of knowledge. She believes that “one must explore – not just artistically but also explore knowledge in all forms.”

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