'Not Less Expensive Than Gold' 2016-2020


Artists : Subas Tamang, Lavkant Chaudhary, Mekh Limbu, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, Hit Man Gurung.


Medium : Mixed-Media Installation (Video, Drawings, Paper mache, Herbs, Prints on Textile)


Dimension : Variables


Project Production Team : Mekh Limbu, Subas Tamang, Lavkant Chaudhary, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, Hit Man Gurung, Binay Rimal, Kala Limbu, Mithu Chaudhary, Aman Tuladhar. Special thanks to Gopal Kalapremi Shrestha.


This Project was independently initiated by Artree Nepal in 2016. In 2020 an extension of this project was commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Open Society Foundations and kind support from Kumudini Gurung, Julia Booth, and Ali Newling. 


The herbs found in the Nepali Himalayas at altitudes above 3,000 meters are considered rich in phytochemicals and medicinal properties.  These plants which people have been using for hundreds, if not thousands, of years for their healing abilities have now become export goods; ironically, up to 90 percent of Nepal’s pharmaceuticals are imported. 


Increasingly, in most developing countries, public services such as health, education, and transportation are systematically privatized. In Nepal, healthcareces and medical education are astronomically expensive, only five percent of the population  can afford to pursue an undergraduate medical degree. In rural areas, due to a lack of proper infrastructure, people have to travel long distances to larger cities, sometimes travelling for days, just to receive basic treatment. Women who live in the most remote areas even need to be airlifted just to reach a safe birthing facility. 


Not less expensive than gold approaches multiple concerns that are urgent for ArTree Nepal. The actions and objects presented here express our frustration over the incessant erasure and disintegration of indigenous, folk, and shamanist healing practices. Pejorative terms such as ‘alternative medicine’ or ‘pseudoscience’ are now used to describe once prevalent traditional systems. Yet, the very plants used by our healers have now become commodities to be consumed and exported. The video furthermore documents a protest performance, in which we stand in solidarity with surgeon-activist Dr. Govinda KC, who has undertaken numerous hunger strikes to fight for the right to healthcare of poor citizens. Our bodies in the performance bear the words of Dr. KC’s manifesto as a demonstration against the commercialization of medicine. 


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