During the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, Kathmandu acted as one of the main backdrops for ‘Something Big and Glorious and Magnificently Insane’: the countercultural scene of the hippie movement. Thousands of young people travelled overland from Europe and Australia to Nepal, in VW vans, double-deckers, buses and even smaller cars, in search of adventure, drugs, and/or spiritual growth. They considered Freak Street, locally known as Jhochhen, as their final destination. The area became a meeting place for foreigners and locals, attracted to the cheap hashish freely available here, good music, sweet pies and great company.
Although Jhochhen had a reputation for drugs and bad norms, for many young Nepalese, it acted as a place for discovery and self-development. Many musicians credit their inspiration to Freak Street. Others got introduced to hippie fashion, English literature, and experimental printing techniques. ‘Hippie Kathmandu’ created the foundation for today’s tourism industry.
‘Hippie Kathmandu’ honours the time when East met West, and overseas and local ‘hippies’ jointly created something ‘magnificently insane’ in the heart of Kathmandu. This exhibition includes the collections of colourful Freak Street personalities such as Trilochan Shrestha (Ying Yang restaurant), Vidhea Shrestha (a rare Nepali ‘hippini’), Ram Prasad Manandhar (Snowman Café), Mohan Krishna Mulepati (Himalayan Coffee Bar), Suman Shrestha (Century Lodge), Mukti Shakya and Newaz (musicians). ‘Hippie Kathmandu’ includes historical images of the overland journey from London and Berlin to Kathmandu. Other collections presented here are from bohemian couples who made Nepal their home, Ira Cohen and Petra Vogt, and William Forbes and Susan Burns.