“Rivers of the World was an extra-ordinary project for me. It was challenging, interesting and most of all, a beautiful medium of connecting students with nature and art,” says Kailash K Shrestha, a Nepali Contemporary Artist and a grantee of the British Council’s Rivers of the World project.

Implemented in 2017, the Rivers of the World was a two-year international arts education project under the British Council's Connecting Classrooms programme through Global Learning that engaged young students in schools to connect with their local rivers, environment and life through arts. Throughout the project period, the students closely worked with the artist Kailash and interacted with students from UK to understand their surroundings, value of local rivers and represent them in form of innovative arts based on themes as River of Life, Culture, City, Work, Resource and Pollution.

How did they work?

“Art means more than painting on a canvas. But most of the teachers and students I worked with in schools knew arts as only paintings,” says Kailash.

“So, I had to start from a scratch. I introduced them to arts and its different forms, explained about our Rivers of the World project and how we are looking to connect students with education and arts through our project,” he adds.

Kailash then let the students research on local rivers in their areas and brainstorm how they can use nature and waste materials to create artworks. He asked students to use their imagination and creativity to bring their ideas to life.

In the initial year, the students utilise their time to understand their local rivers whereas in final year, they connected with students from the UK to learn about the River Kennet.

“The entire process of creating artworks based on themes of rivers was engaging for everyone of us. It not just helped students to enhance their knowledge about rivers or understand the real situation of rivers, but also motivated them to think critically, use their imagination and create something beautiful out of all,” says Kailash.

“As a mentor, I focused on connecting students with nature and education through an art.”

What was the outcome?
By the end of the Rivers of the World project, the students produced a total of 12 art pieces in two years. The students not only gained the firsthand experience of creating artworks out of locally available resources but learned to collaborate, research, integrate arts and other subjects together and talk about their work confidently. 
Even school teachers who never thought of art as an educational subject showed their interest and wanted to connect it with other subjects.

“The Rivers of World project has helped us to change the perception of school teachers and students towards arts. Impressed by our work, some of the school Head Teachers have requested me to continue this art activities in their schools,” says Kailash.

“Though we have competed the project, I am still continuing to teach and engage students in artworks in schools. I am currently leading this work in two of the schools in Hetauda and Kirtipur, and look ahead to use my knowledge, skills and expertise to communicate the real value of arts and integrate it with education,” he adds.

Kailash K Shrestha is a contemporary visual artist based in Kathmandu. He is the initiator of Artudio, a center for visual art and is the first initiator of street art project in Kathmandu and around Nepal through Artudio. Kailash led the British Council's Rivers of the World Project in 2017 and 2018.