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FEATURE STORY March 25, 2021

Upholding a Legacy


Sabrina Dangol/World Bank Nepal

Chet Kumari Chitrakar, Artist

Chet Kumari Chitrakar, 60, has been in the field of religious art for over four decades now. She mixes the paints herself, grinding the ingredients to achieve the correct shades, and hand paints every piece on a specific paper. 

She, however, is not as busy as she used to be. The demand for her religious paintings has been slowly replaced by digitally printed ones, and orders have been declining every year. Her only customers are hotels or tourists, and sales pick up mostly during various festivals. 

Married into a Chitrakar family, Chet Kumari learnt the craft from her mother-in-law. The Chitrakars in the Newari community are known traditionally for their skill in art and painting, which forms an integral part of Nepali culture and religion. 

When the lockdown started last year, Chet Kumari was very apprehensive and did not leave her home in Nagpokhari, Bhaktapur for five months. There were no orders for her paintings as well then, but are now slowly trickling in. 

Chet Kumari’s biggest worry is that the art may die out completely one day. Only a handful of Chitrakar families remain who continue this tradition as many have gone into business and employment. The younger generation is also not interested in the art, she says. She does have her son, Rajesh Chitrakar who for the time being is continuing her legacy. He paints masks for the six-month long Navadurga Nach, started in the Malla era.

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This story is one of 23 stories spotlighting women from Nepal who are breaking the mold through their stories of resilience, hope, and grit amid the COVID19 pandemic. Read all the stories here.