Arts and Entertainment

Rare books, artworks and archives lost during KU flood

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

Aug 15, 2017-

Rare books, art works and valuable archives of Nepali artists were lost on Saturday when floods triggered by incessant rainfall entered the Kathmandu University premises in Hattiban, Lalitpur, inundating the entire university complex.

A premier fine arts school in the Capital, the Department of Fine Arts, under the School of Arts of KU, housed the works of veteran artists, teachers and students which have all been damaged by the flooding. The university staff members who were present at the site during the flooding said that the Karmanasa River swelled Saturday morning and had been overflowing onto the roads. The raging water brought down the wall of a nearby school and inundated a neighbouring potato farm. Once the farm submerged, the waters began flowing inside the university premises. Then, in a matter of moments, the entire compound was flooded.

Sujan Chitrakar, head of department of the Department of Fine Arts, said works of international artists including Celia Washington, co-founder Director of Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre, were damaged in the flooding. The pen and ink art of eminent artist Ratan Rai, including drawings of landscapes, too have suffered irreversible damage. Rai had donated his work to the school in 2004.

Furthermore, the works of students enrolled in the department too have suffered severe damages. The sculpture centre at the school and works made by students at the department too faced severe damages.

Some four days ago, before the flooding, Chitrakar was in a meeting with his colleagues about the archive they had maintained of artists in Nepal. He had asked them to keep additional back up of the documentation so that hard drives could be taken home as contingency.

Little did they know that the archives would be submerged during the flooding of the university on Saturday, rendering loss of over Rs30 million. Rs 15 million of those losses are estimated to have been incurred at the fine arts department. 

According to Chitrakar, the department had been maintaining a detailed digital profile of Nepali artists for over a decade—thoroughly archiving their biographies, works and exhibitions. But now he fears that these archives have been lost forever. “Since the computers were inundated, we are not sure if they can be recovered. The documents were invaluable,” said Chitrakar. “Nonetheless, we are working with experts to retrieve the database.” 

The Department of Fine Arts had been running its programme from a prefabricated building built following the April earthquake in 2015. Its library was also housed in one of the rooms of the prefab building.

Dr Sagar Raj Sharma, Acting Dean of the School of Arts, said books worth around Rs 9 million from the library were lost in the flooding.

Although the department is assessing the total damages, Chitrakar said that Architecture of the Newars (3 Volumes) written by Niels Gutschow; Circle of Bliss by Lina Bandel and many other books by acclaimed artists across the world was completely soaked in the flood.

While the floods inundated the entire KU Hattiban Complex that houses both School of Arts and School of Education, the fine arts department is aware of the difficult situation the flooding puts them in, but is resolved to restart operations quickly. Already constrained by limited space, the department hopes to run its programme from KU School of Management for a while before returning back to the Hattiban location.

“Our classes will resume by Monday. Also, we have asked students to take the submerged books to their houses and dry them carefully to see if the documents could be reused,” said Chitrakar.

Dr Bhola Thapa, Registrar at the KU, said their first priority is to run the academic programme immediately. “We are exploring a longer term solution to avert such events in the future. We will do our best to bring back all the resources that were used by the department and the school,” said Dr Thapa.

Published: 15-08-2017 08:57

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