(Represented by Nepal Art Council, curated by Dr. Dina Bangdel)
From the series “This is My Home, My Land and My Country...” - Hit Man Gurung
The Tharus are indigenous to Nepal. A majority of them inhabit the southern Terai plains of the country. They have been historically marginalized; most are still struggling to get equal rights as citizens of Nepal. Although this issue has been raised multiple times during major political changes and revolutions, it was not addressed seriously. The political parties, for the most part, have used the ‘Tharu agenda’ to get votes but have backed away from delivering. Hence, the Tharu people are deeply frustrated.
On September 20, 2015, Nepal’s new constitution was promulgated. The constitution demarcated the boundaries of new provinces; but the Tharu people were not in agreement with some of these dearcations. As a result, there were massive protests in the southern plains; some groups demanded an ‘Autonomous Tharuhat Province’ with full sovereign decentralized power within Nepal in Western Madhesh. The state responded to these protests with violence. There was bloodshed and much unrest.
These photographs and drawings address the contradiction between a politically influenced ideology and the practical lives of Tharu community. It also highlights the bitter truth of indigenous citizens who are struggling, facing complications, fear and insecurity in their own country.
From the series " This is My Home, My Land and My Country...” - Hit Man Gurung
Starting on September 25, 2015, groups of people living in the Terai, Nepal’s southern plains that shares its border with India, started a ‘blockade’ as a protest against the government’s decision regarding the new constitution. Since a great deal of raw material is delivered to Nepal from India through this border, there was a massive shortage oil, fuel and cooking gas in the subsequent months. The blockade also choked imports of medicines and earthquake relief material, resulting in a major economic and humanitarian crisis. The ensuing shortage severely severely affected daily life in Nepal, even more than the destructive earthquakes of April and May, 2015. More than 3000 small and large industries were shut down. Many educational institutions, hospitals, government offices, banks, shops, agricultural activities and transport services were crippled.
These miniature bronze sculptures are based on this issue of ongoing fuel crisis in Nepal. The sculptures of oxygen cylinders, cooking gas cylinders and petrol gun contain the engravings of voices of people who have been deeply affected by the blockade. The stories have been collected from daily newspapers, interactions and reports. The politically driven blockade have affected the lives of people on an individual level. There are diverse voices of people from different places, but all of them share the same essence of suffering.
"Weaving the Story of my Heart" - Sheelasha Rajbhandari
Weaving the Story of My Heart is a collaborative art project coordinated and supervised by Sheelasha Rajbhandari. The project was conceptualized in the aftermath of the disastrous April 25, 2015 earthquake. Ten female community members from Thulo Byasi, an ancient town in Bhaktapur city, participated in the art project. All the participating women had lost their houses after the 7.8 magnitude quake which had its epicenter in central Nepal. The earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured close to 22,000; hundreds and thousands lost their homes and properties.
The earthquake almost flattened the once-thriving Thulo Byasi community; most of its old mud-brick houses collapsed. But the effect of the catastrophe, however, was beyond physical destruction. When ArTree members started working with the community days after the quake, they found that the people were deeply distressed. The women, in particular, were in an extremely vulnerable position. Since the Thulo Byasi community is patriarchal, most of the women were housewives; most had hardly ventured outside their homes to explore the world. For them, their destroyed houses and their devastated community signified much more. It was as if they had lost everything they knew and cared for in their lives. After the disaster, the women were traumatized and many suffered from depression.
Most of these Thulo Byasi women are skilled knitters. They work at home, supplying a range of knitted wear to various exporters. Like many other women employed in the home-based worker industry, the women of Byasi contribute to Nepal’s burgeoning textile handicraft export in their own ways. In the foreign markets, these handicrafts are marketed as rare luxury goods and are appreciated for their artisan qualities. However, the women and the community members view their work as something menial, something they do just to pass time or earn loose change.
After discovering these refined skills among the Byasi women, Sheelasha began encouraging them to use their skills to cope with their stress and gain self confidence. After the earthquake, over a span of six months, Rajbhandari facilitated discussions and workshops with the women. Collaboratively, all ten women knitted their self-portraits with black and white wool. For them, black and white were the only colors that suited their chaotic circumstances. However, the color blue symbolizes hope. One of the women had shared that the earthquake had been extremely disturbing; the weeks afterwards were unstable due to continual aftershocks, buildings kept collapsing. There was blood, screams and dust all over the place. The sky was the only part that seemed peaceful. So she would look up whenever she could. The large portrait at the center of the artwork is a portrait of this particular woman. The background is a patchwork of various hues of blue. The smaller portraits are presented inside ornate golden frames in order to emphasize the important roles women play in their families and societies, as well as in the country’s economy, a fact that is often ignored.
The portraits were originally exhibited as part of ArTree Nepal’s “12 Baisakh, Post-earthquake Community Art Project” inside the small corrugated tin and old timber temporary shelter that was shared by four of these women.