Art and Health: Using Color and Creativity to Heal in Kathmandu, Nepal – Raya Ward ’21


I am writing from Kathmandu, Nepal where I’m currently interning at an art gallery through Princeton’s International Internship Program!

I’m five weeks into my adventure and still have three and a half more! So far I’ve met so many wonderful people and have had some of the most unimaginable experiences.

First, more on what I am doing here:

I am interning at the Siddhartha Art Gallery, a small contemporary art gallery in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. For the first few weeks of my stay, I helped wrap up a project called Health Transformed by Art (HTA) that the gallery’s foundation is supporting. HTA is an absolutely amazing project that, in my opinion, really demonstrates the power of art beyond aesthetics.

The HTA project is composed of three parts:

1. Art-based therapy: The only trained Nepali art therapist, Lujia Dixit, provided a workshop for 11 young artists and students on art therapy. The students then visit the Children’s hospital cancer ward and practiced what they had learned with the children.

2. Murals: Kanti Children Hospital is the only government and oldest children hospital in all of Nepal. Being the only public one and thus the most affordable, the hospital receives patients from all over the country. It is very crowded, very dirty and very dull. So, in the main waiting area of the hospital, the HTA team commissioned artists and helped paint seven murals. They turned out so lovely!

3. Finally, waste collection and installations: The team collected nonhazardous waste from six hospitals in the Kathmandu valley and recycled the waste into art. They provided the waste to two art universities in the city and the students at these schools created these awesome installations: 

For the HTA project, I mostly designed and wrote publications such as catalogs, reports, and installation labels. I also helped design the exhibition that will be going up soon about the project’s journey and accomplishments.

Now, I am moving on to help prepare for the Kathmandu Triennale 2020, a huge art fair that takes place all over the city in various galleries and venues exhibiting artists from all over the world! It’s a pretty spectacular event, and we are already preparing for 2020, so you can tell it’s a big show! If you happen to find yourself in Nepal in September of 2020, you should be sure to check it out.

Also, I’m shadowing the founder and director of the Siddhartha Art Gallery, Sangeeta Thapa. I get to accompany her to various meetings, galleries, and events. She’s Superwoman, and I decided I want to be her when I grow up!

Anyways, it has been so lovely to get to know and be apart of an art community all the way across the world. I have  seen many shows––those showcasing contemporary Nepali art and those displaying traditional art––, met numerous artists, befriended a few, and shared studio time with others. It was the vibrant and intricate art of South Asia that first attracted me to this region of the world, and now that I am here, I am being completely immersed in it.

Traditional Nepali architecture at the Patan Museum

Gallery opening at Siddhartha Art Gallery

Me working on a painting out on the terrace.

Outside of the arts I have also had numerous outdoor adventures and touristy travels: mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking, a trip to Pokhara, multiple tours of temples, squares and monasteries! Even though it is monsoon season and it is drizzly, cloudy and you often can’t catch a view of the Himalayas, the beauty of this country is stunning. Soon me and the other Princeton students here will be going canyoning and then finally we are ending our trip with a safari in the southern part of the country!

In a few words I am loving it in Nepal. This place is just so colorful – from its art to its people to the religion to the lush green hills. Everyday is a new sight and it’s all so inspiring—my sketchbook is overflowing!