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Interactive Mapping and Archive Project (IMAP) was initiated, as an art and cultural archive in 2009, by Social Science Baha with financial support from the Ford Foundation. It first began as a digital archiving project which concentrated on documenting the works of cultural institutions and independent artists of studio art and theater in order to preserve, support, and proliferate the artistic and cultural resources of the Kathmandu Valley. Since June 2010, again with the support of the Ford Foundation, IMAP expanded its focus to promoting the importance of public spaces of urbanising Kathmandu through dialogue and research. Its primary aim was to instigate collective consciousness among the citizens about the need for the creation and maintenance of public spaces, and the impact on them due to growing urbanisation.
IMAP was conceived as a one-stop portal for information on Kathmandu valley's artistic heritage in the forms of fine and performing arts. The programme was involved in mapping and archiving the arts, its individuals, and core institutions. While it focused on modern and contemporary movements in the art and theater scene, it also supported and encouraged studies of ethnic and marginalised arts deeming them to be essential to Nepali culture.
The inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley have always enjoyed a culture of utilising its innumerable squares for a variety of purposes. Here, most of these squares have specific functions during cultural and religious ceremonies and have also served as meeting hubs as part of the inhabitants’ day to day lives. Besides these, trade fairs, political meets, demonstrations, in addition to popular events such as musical concerts and literary festivals are also frequently done in these venues. The function, importance, and appreciation of public spaces of Kathmandu is therefore rising. However, to the citizens’ dismay, very little has been done to provide other similar avenues or maintain the existing ones.
In fact, the use of most of these public spaces has become highly controlled, and permission to organise any social or cultural event requires a laborious administrative process, especially in the case of Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur in particular), and Patan Durbar Square. Similarly, the maintenance of existing parks or historical structures such as bahals, patis, etc. seems to be of little or no concern to the responsible authorities (Guthi Sansthan, Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office) as attributed by their current dilapidated condition.
Hence, in an effort to explore the possibilities of proper administration and utilisation of public spaces and to create a unanimous public voice for right to public spaces, IMAP provided a forum for dialogues through diverse forms of communication—television, radio, lectures, and workshop.
The much acclaimed annual event of IMAP, 'Artists in the City: Urbanization and Urban Culture’, first organised in 2010, and given continuity on an annual basis thereafter, has appealed to the young urban population who have come to constitute the major participants of the event. The exhibitions and performances showcased at various public spaces around Kathmandu has also been enjoyed by art supporters and general public alike. The visual and performing arts were brought into the public realm giving continuity to the culture of collective celebration of events. Simultaneously, dialogue was initiated between artists and professionals from disciplines such as architecture, urban planning and culture on Kathmandu and its urbanisation from this event.