Myth of the Nagas and the Kathmandu Valley Watershed
An Ecological Artwork
Jyoti Duwadi & Barbara Matilsky
In 1993, we wrote a ten-page proposal in which we outlined our ideas and philosophy for an ecological artwork that used local legends and traditions to generate interest in revitalizing the riverine ecology of the Kathmandu Valley. This position paper proposed to reestablish the human connection with the sacred Bagmati River and its tributaries that has been destroyed by pollution. We suggested the formation of a greenway and nature corridor linking all of the valley’s rivers in order to compensate for the loss of open space due to rampant development and the aggressive presence of vehicular traffic.
Since this artwork provides a framework for ecological restoration, we believed that its success was depend upon the activism of Nepali people. To insure their participation, we developed an educational component that would communicate the relevancy of our ideas by drawing upon Nepal’s unique culture. Turning to Hindu and Buddhist wisdom and art, we reinterpreted an indigenous environmental ethic and created artworks that synthesized ancient ideas with contemporary approaches to both art and nature.
We appropriated the image and symbolism of the Nagas, ancient serpent deities, who represent fertility and clean air and water. We addressed the revival of an eroding Nepali cultural identity and environmental ethic while concentrating on the restoration of an ecosystem. By incorporating native stories and ancient traditions along with new ideas to achieve sustainable development, we envisioned The Myth of the Nagas as a prototype for countries facing similar environmental and cultural problems.