Nepal is well-known as a land of ancient culture, diverse ethnic groups and colourful festivals grounded in Hindu and Buddhist culture. However, there is also a growing, vibrant arts scene throughout the country, particularly visible in Kathmandu and Pokhara. So, when planning a trip to Nepal, you might want to consider timing your visit around one of these contemporary cultural festivals as well as the more traditional ones. Many of them take place in the late autumn and early winter months.
The Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF)
KIMFF runs every year in Kathmandu in early December, and has been doing so since 2000. It is an excellent showcase of Nepali and international films, with prizes and monetary awards in many categories. Kathmandu is the ideal place for an international mountain film festival, not just because it is the capital of a country often associated with the mountains, but because of the modern city’s complex relationship with them. Kathmandu is a bursting metropolis in which modern lives are lived, yet many of its people still retain their traditional cultural attachment to mountain areas. People interact with the mountains around the world in multiple ways–extreme sports, adventure, religion, or distinct cultural practices—and every year, KIMFF offers thought-provoking and beautiful films on these topics.
The biannual Film Southasia festival will next be held in November 2017. Documentary and fiction films are screened from all countries of South Asia—India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan—and filmmakers travel from everywhere in the region to attend. It makes sense that a pan-regional festival such as this should be held in Nepal, which is a relatively politically neutral country compared to others in the region (that is, a similar festival held in India would prevent Pakistani filmmakers from attending, and vice versa).
Nepal Literature Festival
The sixth edition of the Nepal Literature Festival was held in January 2017 in Pokhara. The festival was also held in Pokhara in 2016, although previous editions had been in Kathmandu. Popular and new authors read from their work, launch their books, and hold panel discussions on important literary and political topics. The majority of sessions are conducted in Nepali, with Nepali authors, but many are also conducted in English, with Indian and other international authors who have travelled to Nepal to attend. There are chances to purchase books and get them signed, and to be inspired and learn something new.
Photo Kathmandu started in 2015, but has run for two very successful years, both held in October/November. Based in Patan but spreading throughout Lalitpur and occasionally to other places in Kathmandu, the festival showcases the best photography by and about Nepal, as well as some from abroad. But it’s not just photo displays—there are multimedia screenings at cultural sites throughout Patan, talks with photographers, workshops, and even concerts (such as the free concert and fundraising Newari feast at Bungamati in 2016). The festival runs for a couple of weeks, so there is plenty of time to pick up a program and find what is of most interest to you.
Touted as ‘the biggest jazz party in the Himalayas’, Jazzmandu was started in 2002 by a Nepali musician and a jazz club owner. It is an annual music festival held in October or November. Venues are scattered all around Kathmandu, making it convenient no matter where you’re staying. International and Nepali artists both play. Ticket prices vary depending on the concert, and many are held in attractive and atmospheric restaurants and bars.
Prasad Street Art Festival
The first installment of this colourful festival was held in August-September 2016, and included mural painting, talks on street art, concerts and outdoor exhibitions. While there is no information available on whether the street art festival will be held again, fingers crossed it will be! Even so, you can have fun searching for the many vibrant murals adorning home and buildings throughout the city. The Kupondole area of Patan is especially vibrant, with many iconic murals as well as newer additions brightening up the streets.
Inspired? If you are interested in Nepal’s more traditional festivals, have a look at what Royal Mountain Travel can also offer: