In May 2017, we initiated a community art project which would lead to 18 artists from four different countries immersing themselves in the life, society and politics of Sipapokhare village in Nepal’s
Why Sipapokhare? It is one of the country’s least developed, and most socially marginalised communities with a high concentration of families from the lowest Dalit caste. In Sipapokhare itself,
it’s estimated that there are 165 Dalit households. But despite its vast distance from the centres of economic and political power, Sipapokhare found itself almost at the very epicenter of the earthquake which hit Nepal in April 2015. Thousands in the area were killed and many more injured. Since 2015, friends of mine have been involved in a school reconstruction project in the village but I, like many fellow artists, felt inadequate. What could we as artists do, to offer our support, and to contribute to the healing process of such a devastated community?
There are so many others better qualified to take part in the actual physical rebuilding of places such as Sipapokhare. But as art activists – artivists – could we use art and the mentality that creates art in all its forms to rebuild attitudes? Other countries like Japan experience frequent earthquakes but without suffering to the same extent the ongoing social and economic destruction we have seen in Nepal. Japan may be wealthier and more developed, but have we been held back by exclusion, prejudice and our inability to challenge established ways of thinking? We wanted to use art to make those worst affected by the quake think about and question what they had experienced and were still living through. Just as schools focus on children and teenagers and bring together teachers and mothers in the educational effort, we decided to hold art residencies in Sipapokhare to allow these four groups to engage with our artists to find new ways of understanding their lives and the society they live in. I very much believed that the way these workshops were conducted would be of vital importance in determining the art that might be created. The earthquakes of 2015 had destroyed so much but in order to help the young and marginalized of Sipapokhare build better futures we had to break down the mental and cultural barriers that alienated them from their society and from the wider world beyond. That is why the 18 artists who took part in this project lived for eight days within six Dalit homes and experienced exactly the same living conditions as their hosts. That is why both pupils and teachers in Sipapokhare who took part in the workshops were encouraged to express their view of the greatest problems they faced in the classroom away from their school environments with their traditional hierarchies. As a result, the opinions voiced were both surprising – an enduring fear of snakes – and realistically practical – how to improve acoustics and temperature levels in temporary structures built with tin walls and roofs.
As well as this project, we at LASANAA have also brought Dalit children to our NexUs cultural centre in Kathmandu so they could see art produced in the heart of their nation’s capital. They have met artists from countries like Mexico so they can understand that political and economic marginalization while living so close to the centers of power and wealth is a worldwide phenomenon and not one that is unique to their own experience. They have also acquired practical artistic skills through taking part in workshops run by the American photographer, Kevin Bubriski, so they have a means to document and envision their own lives.
It was a pleasure and privilege to have the involvement in this project of artists from the University of the Arts, Helsinki, in Finland – a historical first for us at LASANAA in terms of intercontinental artistic co-operation. The opening of perspectives that enabled is something we will both continue to learn from and to develop. Adolescents and children have been central to the rebuilding process at Sipapokhare and we see this as an ongoing relationship. We have chosen ten marginalized kids from different schools in the district and we will continue working with them.
The 18 artists on this project – given the title Rebuilding Recaptured – have produced the work that you see in these pages in full collaboration with the women and young of Sipapokhare who so bravely and kindly agreed to take part. The artists were given no brief other than to respond to the ideas and input of the village residents and to try new ways of thinking and producing art. That is the ongoing ethos of LASANAA. They have also, along with the art you see, written brief outlines of how their thinking about the meaning of the term community art has changed as a result of this project. I hope their art and their words will prompt you to re-evaluate and perhaps re-define your understanding of both community and art.
– Ashmina Ranjit, founder and director of LASANAA
Post-quake art exhibit this week – [Kathmandu Post – 22 Aug. 2017]
Recalling quake hit Sindhuplachok through art. – [Katmandu Post, 3 Sep. 2017.]
कलामा भूकम्पको कहर – [Souradaily. com, 4 Sep. 2017]
5 Women Artists
Marie Julia Bollansée, Monali Meher, Alice Fox and Ryan Elisabeth Reid took up residence in LASANAA invited by Ashmina Ranjit as part of the Katmandu Triennale. The aim was to to make a collective performance and lead a workshop entitled ‘Being in a Body’. The five artists from different geographical origins will have a conversation in Kathmandu, which will root the creation in individual and collaborative response to the city. The group’s performance will be based on their own experiences now, in the present, at this moment in Kathmandu. In addition, each artist is creating an individual performance for the Triennale.
The group led the 2-day workshop, ‘Being in a Body’, on March 29th and 30th at Nexus, for a community of Nepali performance artists. The workshop focused on the development of ideas behind a performance and the concept of being in a body in this space and time. They strove to support and mentor emerging Nepali performance artists.
A series of performances were shown on March 31st and April 1st based on the workshop process.
Collaborative performance ‘Walking with Milk’ by Ashmina Ranjit (NP), Molnali Meher(IN-NL), Alice Fox (GB), Ryan Elisabeth Reid (USA), Marie Julia Bollansée (B) at Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal on April, 1 2017 .
See the whole performance here.
The Artist in Residency program Being in the Kathmandu Valley’ project came about to fill the vacuum of research-based conceptual work in Nepal’s art scene. This ‘Artivism’ project re-introduced Nepal through contemporary life and art. The aim of this project was to explore, research, and develop exchanges, and to create a platform for critical discourse and interaction between artists from different parts of Nepal, beginning with Kathmandu Valley. Five major ancient cities of Kathmandu Valley: Bhaktapur (Khopa), Lalitpur (Yala), Kirtipur (Kipu), Madhyapur (Thimi), and Kantipur (Yan/KTM) were the chosen centers for this residency program.
Being in Kathmandu Valley: Residency Based on Research
LAH/LAANAA presented the exhibition of art works ‘Redefining Kathmandu Valley’ by 20 visual artists and 20 poets. Redefining Kathmandu Valley is a residency program comprising 20 artists from various backgrounds, coming together for the purpose of seeking new perspectives on Kathmandu. The exhibition, held from 30th March till 10th April 2012, was the culmination of a yearlong journey with LAH (Live Art Hub)/LASANAA. The main goal of ‘Redefining Kathmandu’ was to break free of the clichéd ways of looking at the valley, and at the same time taking on issues that are relevant and contemporary. Kathmandu is the cultural and political hub of Nepal, and LASANAA seeks to give momentum to a new ‘Artivism’ to reinvigorate the art scene here.
The program encompassed a wide range of activities: workshops, interactions, talk programs, group critiques, heritage walks and collaborative working. The workshop ‘Techne-kala: Enriching Art Practice Through Research’ focused on looking at the process of creating art, and differentiating academic research from a more immersive, subjective research. In ‘Efficacy of Critical Thinking in Art’, participants were introduced to the DeMazia system of art appreciation, as well as symbolism and its necessity within a contemporary setting.
The residency was approached in two ways: 15 artists were selected for location based research, and various locales across the valley were assigned to each group. After field visits and interactions with the residents, each artist focused on a specific theme related to that area. On the other hand, a proposal call was sent out amongst participants of ‘Techne Kala’, and 5 proposals were selected for a LAH Grant. The grantees were also part of their own research processes.
Both the grantees and location based residency artists worked on their projects at the Live Art Hub under the guidance of LASANAA, as well as guest mentors. Group critique sessions were held for exchange of ideas. The artists also benefitted greatly from the various talk programs held at Martin Chautari.
The creation of artworks was also supplemented by a collaborative effort undertaken between the artists and a group of 20 poets. The artists and poets came together to discuss the themes chosen, the fruits of which are 19 poems that take a literary approach to each project in “Redefining Kathmandu”.
The artists had also been working on an ongoing collaborative project, which began on 22 March. Everyone was invited to participate in the performance ‘SPICES’ by bringing in a small amount of spice of everyday use from his/her kitchen to add on to the growing collection. This interaction and additions continued right up to the closing day of the exhibition.
The resultant work, as well as the paintings, installations, interactive art, video art and poetry made during the span of “Redefining Kathmandu” were on display at LAH/ LASANAA, from 30th March till 10th April, 2012.
The exhibition closed with the performance that was culled from and built up from SPICES. SPICES tried to touch upon glocalization – how cuisine or food can be taken as an indicator of cultural co-presence even in our everyday lives. On one hand, we have imbibed a lot of flavors and textures from ‘other’ cultures – on the other we retain our connection to our Nepali and Asian roots through our sense of selfless hospitality and ‘giving’ or ‘sharing’ as opposed to ‘taking’. SPICES, we believe, is a fitting conclusion to all that we have tried to explore and arrive at through ‘Redefining Kathmandu’.
(Collaborative Workshop: Everyday 2pm-6.30pm, 22-30 March – Collaborative Performance 5-7pm, on 4th, 7th & 10th April 2012).
Redefining Kathmandu Valley
- Sanjeet Maharjan
- Mahesh Bastakoti
- Kurchi Das Gupta
- Praneet Rai
- Supriya Manandhar
- Sandeep Neupane
- Kailash Shrestha
- Krishna Maya Suwal
- Mekh Limbu
- Muna Bhadel
- Rabita Kisi
- Riti Maharjan
- Saurganga Darshandhari
- Diva Pradhan
- Tika Dutta Dahal
- Bikash Shrestha
- Sagar Manandhar
- Deepmala Maharjan
- Chandra Shrestha
- Ashmina Ranjit
- Swosti Rajbhandari
- Bikram Subba
- Mani Lohani
- Thakur Belbase
- Geeta Karki
- Sandhya Pahadi
- Geeta Tripathi
- Baba Basnet
- Uma Subedi
- Shakuntala Joshi
- Sumi Lohani
- Bishnubibhu Ghimire
- Kishor Pahadi
- Bidhan Acharya
- Rajendra Shalabh
- Basant Chaudhar
- Arjun Khaling
December 2016 – January 2017.
People involved: Leah Houston, Nepali-Canadian academic – Sujata Thapa, Artistic Director – Michael Burtt, LASANAA Artists in Resident – Shrawan Kumar and Keepa Maskey, LASANAA Director – Ashmina Ranjit.
10 day Workshop
Keepa Maskey’s paintings draw on personal memories, cultural rituals, myths, ideologies and power structures to investigate how individual and collective identity is shaped. Her bold, colourful abstract works reflect on a disembodied world impacted by technological change. Flat areas of colour and shapes are segmented by thick black lines, recalling stained glass windows, cartoons, graphic novels and the way in which memory is layered and compartmentalized. Each differentiated form is simultaneously interdependent on the other, butting and vying for position, but together creating a dynamic whole.
Maskey’s complex paintings convey balance, movement and a quest for harmony, whilst maintaining a sense of uncertainty. Her colour palette draws on Nepalese symbolism and the source material for many of the paintings include: an attic where her Grandmothers’ religious rituals were performed (and Maksey was barred from as a child), her own experience as a young girl growing up in the caste system in Nepal, and her time in New York, reflecting on and romanticizing the landscape of home.
“At the beginning, Community Arts felt very vast, very vague, but now I feel like i am a part of it. I don’t need to wish; I can do it. Together we can do it. Through art, we are able to understand each other, build relationships, repair whatever our inner feelings, the society we want to see.” – Keepa Maskey
Shrawan Kumar MZN (Maharjan)
Shrawan Kumar Maharjan was born in 1991 and just recently graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts from Benares Hindu University. He focused on sculpture during his three years in Varanasi and took part in several group exhibitions there.
Having returned to his hometown Kathmandu, the 25-year-old had his first solo exhibition, which featured his small brass sculptures of the “frog universe”. Most of his sculptures reconnect to childhood memories of the artist who sees the frog as an icon as the image can be found globally in most cultures in (children’s) literature, fables, and songs. Shrawan also painted before becoming deeply involved in casting brass sculptures and hopes to be able to work on larger scale works in the future.
‘My Nepal experience challenged me as an artist and a human being in so many new and unexpected ways. I am so proud of the work we participated in.’ – Leah Houston.
Many thanks to MABELLEarts for their support and participation.
To read their full report on the project click here.