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These White Butterflies from Nepal are Spreading a Message of Hope and Social Change Throughout the World

A boy looks on from an old abandoned vehicle installed with white butterflies. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

A boy looks on from an old abandoned vehicle installed with white butterflies. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

White means peace and these white butterflies from Nepal are spreading their wings all over the world, carrying a message of peace, hope and social change wherever they flutter.

It all started when Nepalese artist Milan Rai let the butterflies loose in the streets of Kathmandu, mostly at old, dilapidated and forgotten locations such as tree stumps, but also on busy streets and famous landmarks.

According to Rai, butterflies, as symbols of metamorphosis, represent transformation and hope.

Rai says the idea for the art installations struck him when a real white butterfly landed on his paintbrush as he was planning a more complicated art project.

Thus his own white butterflies began their journey.

The paper cut-out creatures have evoked strong emotions and empathy for Rai's cause among visitors to his diverse installations.

Recently, he installed 9,000 white butterflies at the premises of Kathmandu’s Kalmochan Temple in memory of around 9,000 people killed by the April earthquake last year.

The temple was completely destroyed by the earthquake.

Earlier, he had installed the butterflies under the bridge of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, expressing hope for the holy river's liberation from uncontrolled pollution.

People of all walks of life are coming together to clean this holy river as part of an ongoing environmental campaign.

BagmatiRiver

The white butterflies installed under the bridge of the Bagmati River. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

This ‘butterfly effect’ has attracted and inspired people from around the world and many have asked him for more butterflies.

In his recent Facebook post, he wrote:

Verena came to visit my studio and took 500 white butterflies with her. She is going to a village called Ghyachchok – the epicenter of earthquake from 11-13 Baisakh. She is taking white butterflies for this community. She had also participated in spreading 9 thousand white butterflies on 6th april at Kalmochan. She is from Australia and works as a Music therapist in a children’s hospital.

Now the butterflies have travelled across the globe, where they have been widely photographed.

His butterflies were seen with children, adults, elders and activists coming together in Brussels to save a park, for instance.

The white butterflies at a park in Brussels. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

The white butterflies at a park in Brussels. Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

And here they are again, in Jackson Height, New York:

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

And again in Cambodia:

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

High-school drop-out Rai has shared his personal story in Portrait of an Artist – Milan Rai uploaded on Vimeo by Kathmandu-based filmmaker Shashank Shrestha.

Recently, he was invited to Harvard University where he talked about his project and installed his famous protagonists in different parts of the famous institution:

Two days ago, I had a meeting with Harvard Divinity school Buddhist ministry students. It was a heart warming experience to share my creative journey with the the Professors and students. I mostly talked about my personal transformation and how a tiny butterfly changed my life. After that we went to spread white butterflies in other departments.
‪#‎buddhism‬ ‪#‎enter‬ the ‪#‎gate‬ of ‪#‎wisdom‬ ‪#‎life‬ ‪#‎peace‬ ‪#‎harvard‬ ‪#‎learning‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

He added on Facebook:

I finished this white butterflies art installation yesterday at the CGIS building (Center for Government and International Studies) ~ Harvard. It starts from the ground floor swirling up to the 4th floor.

Nowadays, as Rai tours the world on the wings of his viral art project, he reserves some special words of kindness and appreciation for flight attendants:

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Image from the Facebook page of the White Butterfly project. Used with permission.

Usually the flight attendants say, “Thank you for flying with us.” Whenever I meet them I say, “Thank You for flying with me.”

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