A Hidden Sanctuary
Down a side lane on Matri Marg you can find a place of unexpected delights. Nestled
amongst the sea of grey buildings is a creative and colourful oasis. ‘We wanted it off the
roadside, to make it feel less commercial and more like a home. We are trying to make an
open space that is sustainable and can nurture creative projects.’ Says Director and Artist
Ashmina Ranjit. ‘NexUS’ means a connection or a series of connections and it something you
are surely to experience after coming here. A connection to others and a connection to the
space. People who visit don’t leave disappointed as this place offers a kaleidoscope of
Come here on a Tuesday evening and you will find an Open Mic night. Presented by the
highly entertaining Dr. Brent Downes and accompanied by the very articulate Chris Wardle
we hear original work and writings of the great masters. Poetry, comedy, spoken word and
always an unusual musical talent to be heard dispersed throughout the night. There is
something magical about the night as people express themselves, many for the first time in
public and are received by an authentic and grateful audience whom by two applauses are
always generously given.
Thursday nights bring another cultural feast in the form of film. Often Nepali films are
shown accompanied by the director who stages informal question and answer sessions after
the screening. These can be very thought provoking and insightful and provide great
discussion material after the film to be enjoyed with a beer or homemade pizza. If it is not a
Nepali film it is usually an off beat, amusing film that will nonetheless get your mind
These are the regular events but as I said it is a place of unexpected delights. So far that I
have been here there has been poetry book launches, feminist talks, an exhibition and
karaoke! The exhibition ‘Rebuilding Recaptured’ was a highlight for me as I got to work
behind the scenes helping construct a silkscreened book on the project. Not only did this
give me the opportunity to meet plenty of Nepali artists it also gave me a fantastic insight
into the project and an example of the socially progressive art that happens here at NexUS.
LASANAA is another brainchild of Ashmina, meaning art in Newari, LASANAA is an arts
organization and has successfully driven art projects since 2007. NexUS has stemed out of
this as a means to try and provide a space and a sustainable way to ensure the running of its
art and activist projects (Artivism). One of their goals is to to encourage upcoming and
established artists and maintain a place not just to develop technical skills but to create
space in their minds for new ideas to emerge. The residency programme provided here
gives international artists the opportunity to come and immerse themselves in Nepali
culture and the creative art scene. Whenever an international artist comes to work here
Nepali artists are offered a fellowship to develop their work alongside the resident artist.
This method allows for a natural sharing of skills and ideas to flow between the artists.
Regardless of exhibition or event the place in itself is visually stimulating in its own right.
Tables made from old wheelchairs and motorbikes. Wheels as windows. There seems to be
a bicycle theme to it and it is certainly is upcycling at its best! All of which was created here by Ashmina and other artists. People donated materials and they collected them from junk
yards. It aligns perfectly with the ethos of working together collectively in a sustainable way
to create something of new value. There are little wonders and oddities scattered
throughout the garden including a skeleton hanging from a ledge which Ashmina once wore
consistently on her back as provocative political symbol. Plenty of contemplative
conversation starters to enjoy over coffee.
The coffee used is Nepali Himalayan Java coffee. The ‘NexUS Special’ is a healthy homemade
recipe with mixed grains and served with plenty of organic vegetables, all prepared in the
most energy efficient way possible. Little is wasted and they are constantly adding to the
menu. Their aim is to run NexUS as a holistic creative hub which is sustainable. In this way
they can then provide a varied and rich, socially engaged arts programme.
The residencies can consist of artists in any form, writers, anthropologists and graphic
designers have all taken abide here. One volunteer Isaac Martinez from America stated ‘I
have met more people and created more beneficial contacts here in three weeks then I
have in my entire life in America.’ The rooms can also be rented for periods of time and you
can find NexUS on Air B’n’B.
During the day regulars enjoy Nexus for its laid back and informal ambiance. It is ‘natural
and uncontrived. I feel a sense of freedom the instant I come in here.’ Says Shrijana Pant
who comes here most days to work. ‘It’s a sanctuary of nature between all the concrete.
You can actually hear the birds sing.’ says Sabin Ninglekhu. ‘It is something new in terms of
the city being exposed to artistic means that you are not normally used to. Good for the
mind to get that kind of provocation. Its openness invites events and talks that are different
to normal events organized in the city. Feminism, sexuality, topics that would feel out of
place in other spaces, but here feels right.’ A place where important and needed
conversations can happen and a platform for action to spring from.
Contemporary ideas and issues are very important to the space. There are regular talks and
workshops held here. There is also a small bookshop corner and library. Volunteers and
interns are a backbone of NexUS, a place where they can gain experience, be exposed to
new ideas and take ownership of the space in their own right. For instance they have hosted
some Karaoke nights and one member Astitwa Adhikari who has a keen interest in film, has
begun a youtube channel recording the talent that performs at the Open Mic event. It is
important that they too can carry out projects and have the freedom to follow through their
New ideas are consistently being thought of as people visit and bring their own expertise
and ideas to the table. Perhaps that is one of the most exciting things about NexUS, the
feeling that anything is possible. It is at the beginning of its creative life and it is at the
starting point where it has the potential to go in so many directions. For now it is a place of
connection, a centre point for people from all aspects of life to converge.
LASANNA artist in Resident at NexUS