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Street Art By Sadhu-X

Text by: Pabita Dahal

Amongst a handful of street artists in Kathmandu, Aditya Aryal, popularly known as  Sadhu-X, has made a deep impression through his statement pieces. His works are thought-provoking and cover contemporary global and urban topics and are strongly influenced by social and religious sentiment.

The Co-founder of Kaalo.101 Art Space, Aditya was declared as ‘The Most Influential Street Artist of Nepal’ by the New York Times. He has participated in multiple art exhibitions worldwide, and was amongst the few selected artists to be invited to the 5th Viborg International Billboard Painting Festival in Denmark. In a conversation with WOW he talks about his journey, struggles as a street artist in Nepal, and plans for the future.

What stirred your interest in street art?

While doing a business course in Paris, a friend who is a self-taught artist inspired and stirred my creative side. As soon as I returned to Nepal, I enrolled into Kathmandu University’s Art faculty. As for my interest in street art, I learnt it through one of my American professors. It fascinated me so much that I made it my career goal.

What are the biggest challenges for street artists in Nepal?

Since street art is uncommon in Nepal, there are a lot of challenges. It is very difficult to get the required materials here. Also, there is no senior street artist to ask for suggestions or help. Hence, I have learnt everything by myself. I take a lot of help from my foreign friends and the internet. As for the government bodies, there hasn’t been anything; neither interference nor any support.

You have achieved fame even at the international level. How does it make you feel?

I don’t work for fame. Yet, it was easy for me to garner fame as I am a first generation street artist in Nepal. I believe in working with full exertion without expecting results. So, maybe this recognition is a reward for my hard work.

Your artwork ‘Rape Me’ received many controversial reviews, your thoughts…

I did not create it to raise controversy; it was for Occupy Baluwatar Movement 2012. Although as Hindus we worship goddesses, sometimes we tend to discriminate, disrespect and marginalise real-life women. Why don’t we still treat women and men as equals? Even now, boys are free to go everywhere at any time, but girls are restricted and confined. Hence, the topless Kumari holding hands on her head, with butterfly wings behind her back with the inscription ‘Rape Me’ is an appeal to girls to utilise their freedom. I have chosen this sensitive imagery to grab the attention of many people, and I have become successful to some extent.

It took almost three years to disclose ‘Rape Me’ in front of the public as it was a sensational image. At first, no gallery in Kathmandu was ready to take the risk. But finally, at the end of 2014, Kashish Das Shrestha was ready to curate the painting at City Museum. Besides this, I had created two extra pieces of ‘Rape Me’. I kept one piece with me and the other I dangled on the wall of Biswa Jyoti Cinema Hall in Jamal, to make it visible to a larger audience. After displaying it for a couple of days, people rubbed off the title ‘Rape Me’ which I rewrote the following day. However, after a few days, the title was completely erased. I do not feel bad about this, in fact, I am happy that the viewers reacted to it. Along with the negative, I also received a lot of positive reactions. National and international audiences showed more interest in my art.

Tell us about Bardo?

 I am very fascinated by Buddhism philosophy. I was researching about Bardo for a long time; it is the transitional period between death and rebirth in Buddhism. It has various stages, and I have tried to portray these stages in the series. It is my own imaginative representation of that transitional period.

How do you see your work evolving in the future?

Obviously, like every artist, I dream of travelling the world, doing solo exhibitions in different places and establishing a studio. However, dreams don’t become reality until and unless you give great effort to achieve it. I want to inspire and help the younger generation who want to pursue a career in graffiti art.

Tell us about your new studio Kaalo.101.

My friend Helena Asha Knox and I are running Kaalo.101. It is a contemporary art space located in Nagbahal, Patan which focuses on street art, including any contemporary art form. The primary goal of the space is to develop itself into an alternative hub for young artists and creative professionals. It is a platform for creative minds to exchange, share and collaborate ideas.

Your first street art
I had drawn one character and my pseudonym Sadhu-X on the wall of Biswajyoti Hall.

Meaning of Sadhu-X…
I am mesmerised with the life of Sadhus and I have added the X is to make it appear mysterious.

Three artists, you look up to…
Os-Gemenos, Doze Green, Okuda

If not an artist, you would have been
A Chef

Art is…
A weapon

Your time to draw
At Night