Transforming Kathmandu into a Butterfly City

Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”- George Bernard Shaw.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” -Pablo Picasso

Milan Rai is a talented young visual artist, who has made it his mission to transform Kathmandu into a butterfly city. That wasn’t his initial plan though. It was while working on a project called “Katha Bagaichako” (Translation: The Story of a Garden), that he got sidetracked. It had been 7-8 months since he’d been working on that project and to put it in his own words, “I had a different goal, but I got to explore a lot of new things on the way to my destination.” While working on ‘Katha Bagaichako’, beautiful butterflies caught his attention. Sometimes they would flutter around and at times, they would come and sit on his paint brush. In dusty and crowded Kathmandu, the sight of a butterfly was enchanting, perhaps, like an oasis in the middle of the desert. He was awe struck at how a tiny butterfly was capable of transforming the city into a fairy land. He was so enchanted by these beautiful insects that he started spending more time at places with a lot of greenery and flowers like Godavari, so that he could see plenty of butterflies.

Gradually, it started to dawn on him that butterflies are soulful creatures and are a symbol of transformation; of metamorphosis. He felt as if he’d been living in a cocoon for the past 7-8 months and it was during the season of the butterflies when he too finally came out of his cocoon. To him, the butterflies were a source of inspiration. Eventually, he left ‘Katha Bagaichako’ as it is for the time being and started on a new journey.

All it took was a little bit of imagination and creativity for him to find new meaning in life. Due to the recent road expansion drive in the city, a lot of rubble, dust and cut off trees have been left behind. In Naxal, the sight of a cut off tree moved him and  it was on the remains of that tree, that for the very first time, he placed some butterflies. A lot of passersby saw the butterflies and admired its beauty. People from all walks of life ranging from street food vendors, to army men to the Prime Minister pass by that road frequently, and he felt as if he was conveying a message to everybody through those butterflies; a message of change and transformation.

The butterflies he creates have a hidden  message. They are not colorful and fancy- those would be for show and decoration. His are strictly plain white. The color white signifies purity and it also symbolizes a blank slate, where anything can be written. It is also a symbol of unity as the color white is produced when all colors combine. The message is pretty clear- it’s about how all people should unite and end disparities. If each person has pure thoughts and if each person transforms themselves, then there will definitely be positive change in our country.

Although he is working hard to spread this message, everything has not been smooth sailing for him. Not everyone has an eye for art and in a country like ours, very few people have civic sense. 2 or 3 days after installing the butterflies, when he went to Naxal again, he found out that the butterflies had disappeared. Initially, he was angry but then he overheard some people talking about those butterflies, about how beautiful they were and how mercilessly, someone had destroyed them. Hearing this, he asked them if they had seen who had done it, but they said they didn’t know. His anger faded and he decided to take this incident positively because he could see that even if some people had responded negatively, his butterflies were being noticed by people. He then replied to them saying, butterflies never remain in one place, they fly away to new destinations and that they would make their way back to the tree again. In his mind, he resolved to install butterflies, not only in Naxal, but all over the city, in every place he could find.

These days, he is busy installing butterflies in different locations within the city and in Naxal, he found an old house that is in dilapidated condition. He has installed some butterflies there as well. He says, the house represents our country, our home. At present, it is in a state of chaos and it is on the verge of falling apart- just like that old house. However, change is possible if all of us join hands together and transform ourselves. To spread this message, he has been installing butterflies on trees, lamp posts, walls and anywhere people can see them easily. “Imagine a Butterfly city,” he says, “a renewed, new, transformed city.”

He is working on this social initiative on his own, without any support from anyone and with full vigor and conviction. On the 22nd of December, an art exhibition is going to take place in London, where he was asked to send his paintings but instead, he sent his butterflies. As his work has gained some recognition, many have liked his page on Facebook and offered words of support and encouragement but very few have actually helped him. Since he is doing this on his own, he could really use some help. Therefore, if you want to support his cause, you can help by offering monetary support or else, you can donate white paper. He is working for a good cause and he is trying to express feelings of solidarity and leading people towards change and transformation. To know more about his work or to contact him, you can visit his Facebook page, “An Artist Converting the City to Butterfly” or you can click on this link . A little effort on your part would probably help in bringing much needed change in our country.

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