Exactly one week ago today we got the devastating news that Dina Bangdel, beloved friend, mentor, erudite scholar, renowned art historian and curator died after complications of a standard sinus operation, and not in Nepal but in a U.S. hospital in Richmond, Virginia. The blow was hard and it is still not fathomable that this brilliant, elegant, warm and friendly woman is no more. Having met her twice on my last trip to Nepal her total aliveness and warm interest in people is still imprinted in my mind and heart – and I grieve deeply for her.
To honour her here on NepalNow.blog I have collected the major obituaries and take the liberty of reposting an especially sensitive one by friend Kurchi Dasgupta (subheaders and collages are mine, all fotos taken from Dina’s Facebook page).
May she truly rest in peace!
Farewell, Bird of Fire!
By Kurchi Dasgupta, Kathmandu
… she was a person, who got invested in everything she touched, everyone she met but never once did she forget her location as a Nepali. Her ambition for her home country, especially in the arts, was limitless and she would protect its concerns and rights like a tigress. But she was also the most soft-spoken, kind, gentle person I have met. I do hope her country will not fail her, especially the art fraternity. For not once has she failed them, except in her passing …
Dina Bangdel, daughter of Lain Singh Bangdel
Lain Singh Bangdel was best known for being the catalyst that brought Modernism into Nepali art. His daughter, Dina Bangdel, who passed away on t July 25 in Richmond (USA), had carried his legacy forward to astonishing results.
At the time of her death, Bangdel was just 52 and yet she was already recognised as one of the world’s most prominent experts in traditional Himalayan Art. More importantly, she was among a handful of people performing the extraordinary task of informing the global art mechanism of Nepal’s contemporary art practices. The whole of South Asia (including Tibet) was her field, but Nepal, especially Kathmandu Valley, remained her life-long focus. I am yet to come across a scholar from this country with as much commitment to Nepal’s cause in every aspect of the arts.
Dina’s academic career and focus
Bangdel (1965-2017) rose to her current status through years of hard work and discerning accumulation of knowledge and expertise. She trained in USA with some of the best in art history, receiving her BA in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College in 1989 and her masters in South Asian Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991.
She went on to teach in the art history departments of Ohio Wesleyan University, the Western Michigan University, the Ohio State University, the Virginia Commonwealth University and was currently the Director of Program at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus in Doha. I had heard her say numerous times that she elected to relocate to Doha so that she could make quick trips to Kathmandu throughout the year and be active in promoting Nepali arts to the world.
Her PhD dissertation, which she did with the renowned Himalayan and Buddhist studies experts John C Huntington and Susan L Huntington at the Ohio State University in 1999, was seminal in its content. Called Manifesting the Mandala: A Study of the Core Iconographic Program of Newar Buddhist Monasteries in Nepal, the title of her dissertation speaks for itself and has since been hailed as a rare unveiling of Newar Buddhism for common understanding. More importantly, Bangdel had articulated arguments to rid Newar Buddhism of the label that it was a mixed practice. ‘Newar Buddhism remains the last remaining legacy of Indian Buddhism that is practiced within an actively South Asian cultural context,’ reads the introduction to her dissertation, and she goes on to explain how this particular strain of Buddhism not only retains the chief tenets and goals of the soteriological practice, but intelligently adapts itself to the official religious discourse of the times to survive historically. And even more importantly, she drew attention to the extraordinary flowering of culture around the practice, over centuries and to this day, that gives Newar art its unparalleled position in South Asia.
Dina was all this, but for me she was more. I met her when she was putting the finishing touches to the voluminous Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, which she co-edited. I remember her strained but joyous face as she sat in our living room with her husband, and led us through the many facets of Nepal’s traditional, modern and contemporary art. I listened spellbound. The evening ended with her husband, Bibhakar Shakya, telling us about how he had first walked into the waiting room of Ohio State University, and realised that he had found his soulmate as soon as his eyes fell on her.
Dina as a friend and mentor
In a way she took me under her wing, letting me accompany her on some of the studio visits she made whenever she visited Kathmandu. And thus my introduction to so many of the premier, senior artists of this country was fast-tracked. What I found amazing was the ease with which she discoursed with ‘Paubha’ artists on the intricacies and varying schools of their individual practices, while talking modernist history with the Nepali modern stalwarts, while inspiring and tweaking the younger generation of ‘contemporaries’ with her vast first-hand knowledge of the current, global art scene. Dina was a turbo-charger that fuelled, inspired and drove all generations of artists in Nepal living in contemporaneity, no matter how diverse their practice, over the last decade or so.
Dina as a curator
In association with the Nepal Art Council, which her father headed for long stretches of time and during which he pushed Nepal into the Modernist scene, Dina led Nepal’s first significant forays into the South Asian art fairs scene. She handpicked artists for the India Art Fair contingents and supported them in every possible way, especially with advice that came from her globe-hopping exposure.
Our paths had diverged of late, but I could not but appreciate the extraordinary collateral that she put up and curated for the recently held Kathmandu Triennale. I hear that she was already between surgeries when she pulled it off, having brought together an extraordinary body of work from Nepali and Qatar-based artists on the theme of migration, labour and identity. Incidentally, every one of the artists from Nepal that are making forays into the international art world today, were incubated by her in one way or another.
Dina was a rare scholar who could, in equal stride, be a PhD advisor to students that delved into the intricacies of a Dipankara Buddha or an Anish Kapoor. Not many, even in our globalised world, are capable of such feats of straddling such diverse boats. She forged pathways for Nepali scholarship and arts practices, which undoubtedly will only be appreciated much later.
Dina and the “lost art of Nepal”
Identification of heritage pieces scattered all across the world’s many museums and private collections, and the need for restitution of the same, especially from private collections, was a passion she shared with her father. This is evident from the book she co-authored with him, Inventory of Stone Sculptures of Kathmandu Valley (1997) that now acts as a handbook for such efforts.
It was just yesterday that I heard that her dream was slowly being realised—the Guimet Museum (better known as Musée national des arts asiatiques) of Paris, with the largest collection of Asiatic art lying outside of Asia, is in the process of restoring, exhibiting and finally returning a selection of such works with her facilitation. For Nepal, the event will be (and am hoping that it will indeed materialise in her absence) of unprecedented magnitude.
Dina, the prolific writer, presenter … wonderful personality
She produced numerous books, articles, presentations during her career; curated path-breaking shows, including the acclaimed Circle of Bliss; given talks that helped reshape the world’s perception of Nepal’s traditional, modern and contemporary art practices. Everything she touched, everyone she met was marked for life by her intense, effervescent personality.
Of all my memories of her, when I think back, what I remember most intensely is the image of her in a lime-green jacket, pushing effortlessly through the crowd at the Doha airport’s arrival section, pushing aside people double her side, looking for me. Then she saw me and her face, anxious to the point of desperation for she had thought I had gotten lost on arrival, broke into a smile that lit up everything around us.
She knew what it felt like to be alone on foreign soil. She had lived it herself. She was a person, who got invested in everything she touched, everyone she met but never once did she forget her location as a Nepali. Her ambition for her home country, especially in the arts, was limitless and she would protect its concerns and rights like a tigress. But she was also the most soft-spoken, kind, gentle person I have met. I do hope her country will not fail her, especially the art fraternity. For not once has she failed them, except in her passing.
In the third week of July of this year (2016) Kathmandu saw some great PERFORMANCE ART ACTION to support Dr Govinda KC’s hunger strike against corruption. This was such an impressive happening that I just have to repost Sophia Pande’s good article which was published on ekantipur.com and in the KATHMANDU POST on 8 August 2016:
photo credit: Arttree Nepal
On July 23rd, five young men woke up early morning, shaved their heads, dressed only in black shorts, and wrote on their bodies with permanent marker, before exiting out of the Artree compound in Tripureshwor bare-feet and with their eyes closed. Led carefully by their friends, so they wouldn’t injure themselves, this group had started their walk to Baneshwor in a move to support Dr Govinda KC’s eighth hunger strike against the endemic corruption that shadows the corridors of power in Nepal, allowing those in elected positions to do as they will, reaping the benefits of being able to act with near impunity to line their pockets, and the pockets of those near and dear to them.
Dr KC, a medical doctor, has taken to this particular form of non-violent protest multiple times to demand, among other things, that the government should regulate the opening of medical colleges so that sub-par teaching institutions are not established willy-nilly to extract tens of lakhs of rupees from those who covet the title of medical doctors. Each time the government has acquiesced to Dr KC’s demands, they have reneged on those agreed terms—seven times to date.
Lavkant Chaudhary, Hit Man Gurung, Mekh Limbu, Bikash Shrestha, and Subas Tamang along with Sheelasha Rajbhandari, all of whom belong to the Artree artist’s collective ruminated for four days to plan and execute this protest performance art, which they titled, pretty much on the nose, Culture of Silence. All accomplished artists themselves, the six thought through their objective carefully. They knew that a public performance aimed at civil society cannot be so esoteric as to not be understood by the person on the street who has had no previous exposure to this kind of performance art.
The concept was therefore simple, to walk through the streets for all to see. The closed eyes, for the discerning, were an added, physically rigorous element meant to signify the wilful ignorance in tackling the truly corrupt. The uniformity of the cropped heads and black shorts were used again to represent the commoner, the words written on the bodies of the five men with shorn heads were inscribed by skilled calligraphers using permanent marker to make sure that even without speaking, viewers could understand what the performance was meant to support.
After the men reached their destination, outside the Parliament at Baneshwor, they lined up in front of the barbed wire alongside other protesters who had marched and gathered to support Dr KC (a happy coincidence that increased the number of people who witnessed the performance) and started their simple choreography: standing and facing the crowd so that people could read the inscriptions on their bodies; lying on the ground in abject dejection, pain, suffering, and apathy; catching each other as they fell backwards; and placing their foreheads in a row against a brick wall in order to indicate the pointlessness of our political cycle. Again, all this choreography was designed to be simple yet powerful, using silent action over other mediums to describe the feelings of the Nepali people.
At 2 pm the performers finished up and went home to assess how they felt, and to try and gauge their impact. Writing on one’s body as a sign of protest isn’t a particularly cutting edge, plenty of people, artists and otherwise have done it to augment their message, to underscore their spoken and unspoken words. The question is, in a country like Nepal, where the civil society’s will is essentially disregarded, can this kind of artistic protest make a difference?
It is hard both for the artists and for an observer to truly gauge the impact and outcomes of such an event. While Dr KC’s demands have been both critiqued and lauded, Artree’s political performance art has mainly been a kind of visual phenomenon, amplifying these artist’s concerns via the ubiquity of our social media and the power of the images created during this protest.
So, while the actual protest itself, aside from marking a time in history, may not have had significant impact in terms of moving either the hearts and minds of civil society or our venal politicians, the undertaking itself, amplified by social media, recorded indelibly in images, and exponentially reaching tens of thousands of people via social media, may have created the awareness and understanding that protest can take many forms aside from calling traffic strikes, burning tires, and bashing up people who disagree with you—that even though one may feel stifled, there are ways for our voices to be heard over the clamour of yammering politicians struggling over power.
Yes, the civil society may feel helpless, understandably so, even a man as committed as Dr KC has been repeatedly betrayed by the politicians, leaving a gaping hole where in a normal democracy, if the will of the people actually mattered, would have been a movement of people from all walks of life, protesting the absurdity of our political situation: one where a democratically elected government continues to milk the country and tread on the very citizens who so hopefully came out in droves to vote for them.
Art does indeed have a place in politics; Ai Wei Wei, the famous Chinese artist has single handedly created a culture of cheeky dissent against an extremely bemused authoritarian government. The real question is how we can wield this powerful non-violent medium in a sustained and continued manner so that it can contribute to tangible social change.
These guys are fabulous, such a well done a good mood making song and video!!! Way to go Mark Harris and David Tashi Lama. May you have great success at the NepalMusicFestival which will take place at the end of November.
More information about Nepal Music Festival can be found here:
Vocals – Mark Harris (Canada) & David Tashi Lama(Nepal)
Guitar – Mark Harris
Keyboard – Lidia Facias
Bass – Max O’Hara
Drums – Mark Horwath
Direction/Camera/Edit – Vivek Katuwal
Asst.Director – Roshan Thapa ‘Aadha Sur’
Produced by – Nepal Music Festival
Recorded at KJC
Even tough this blog really focusses on modern art of Nepal and then mostly painting, I do want to broaden my horizon from time to time to include photography, which of course is an artform in an of itself. In the last few weeks I was intrigued again and again by images created by Sunny Thapa, a young man from Kathmandu who is calling himself a “weekend photographer” as he holds a full-time job in a diplomatic mission and only goes shooting in his spare time. Decide for yourself how “professional” you consider his photos to be and enjoy the first of a series of photographic posts:
Hi Sunny, tell us about yourself!
I am 29 years old working for a diplomatic mission in Kathmandu, Nepal.
When did you start with photography?
It’s been 4 years now since I started taking pictures only after Iwas able to do some saving for my first DSLR ever. I got a used camera and accessories from a friend and worked with it for over a year. Within a year it gave me some award winning images and I even sold a few of my works. With the prize money and the sales I quickly went for an upgrade.
So when did you begin to take photography more seriously?
In early 2012 with the new and still limited gear I began to take photography more seriously and was deciding for an area that I could stick with and which I would enjoy the most…
… and what did that turn out to be?
After having my kid in August 2012, I realised that I was polishing my skills in taking his pictures. This slowly attracted me into kids and portrait photography. But I won’t forget about the zeal of macro photography which was an is always there with me.
What kind of obstacles do you need to overcome in your artistic work?
Though working full time for a diplomatic mission (where people think they pay good) it is still tough to keep up with the latest gadgets and make your living in this part of the world. Hence I have to rely on used cameras and lens as I am not making much out of photography.
Did you have any formal training?
I never had formal classes on Photography but I attended photowalks conducted by Om Yadav, where I was able to get to know my camera better and get the knowledge from him as he shared his experience. Youtube and Google has been a huge help and letting me experiment new tricks and methods on photography.
Any last words, Sunny?
… I call myself a Weekend Photographer as most of the time I do photography on weekends and holidays only.
Thank you, Sunny, and very good luck in your work in the future!
An article in ASIA ONE of 8 July 2015 describes the feelings of a resident of “Park View Horizon”, a cluster of luxury highrises everyone sees when flying into Kathmandu. (Includes promotional video of the high-end real estate towers!)
Park View Horizon is one of two high-rise buildings that have been slapped with a red notice, meaning it needs either major work to make it safe or else must be demolished. (AFP Photo/Bikash Karki)
His luxury flat had views of the Himalayas to make the heart soar but Dan Bahadur Budhathoki is going to take some persuading to move back into Kathmandu’s 17-storey Park View Horizon apartment block. Budhathoki was at home on April 25 when Nepal was hit by its deadliest earthquake in eight decades and felt the ground sway under his feet.
“I was really frightened,” said Budhathoki, the boss of a local temping agency who has been living in his office since disaster struck.
The 7.8-magnitude quake killed more than 8,800 people and destroyed nearly 600,000 houses in Nepal, a country where high-rise buildings are still something of a rarity and are limited to Kathmandu.
The quake also damaged another 280,000 houses, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and emptying villages deemed too dangerous for human habitation.
Nepalis watched in horror as clouds of dust rose over the Kathmandu Valley and thousands of poorly constructed houses crumbled to pieces, many of which were home to some of the capital’s poorest residents.
More than two months later, blue tents and makeshift shelters made from iron and tarpaulin still dot Kathmandu’s landscape, offering shelter to working-class families who saw their life savings turned to rubble.
Wealthier residents who live in better-designed buildings by and large emerged unscathed.
When Budhathoki purchased his home in one of the capital’s most desirable addresses, he was given assurances about its capacity to withstand an earthquake.
“The developer said that the building was safe for quakes. Initially it was an 11-storey building but then he got the permit to add six storeys. “Maybe that’s the reason for this big damage,” added Budhathoki who heads a group of some 100 apartment owners and tenants demanding compensation.
Before April’s quake, 58 high-rise buildings had been built in Kathmandu while around another dozen projects have received planning permission. While thousands of one or two-storey buildings were reduced to rubble, none of the tower blocks were toppled.
Park View Horizon is one of two high-rise buildings that have been slapped with a red notice, meaning it needs either major work to make it safe or else must be demolished. While six buildings sustained no damage at all, the other 50 require lighter remedial work, according to Buddhisagar Thapa, an urban development ministry official who has responsibility for Kathmandu.
Varun Developers, the local offshoot of the Indian construction giant RJCorp which built Park View, says the building does not necessarily have to be razed to the ground and can be made habitable again.
“It will take at least six months but it can be done. The foundations are okay but we are working on strengthening them,” said Amit Gupta, the company’s representative in Nepal.
Gupta insisted construction had conformed to all safety regulations but acknowledged residents were fearful about returning. “Of course, things will never be the same and it will take time but by six months, phobia of high storeys will decrease.”
Budhathoki, who owns twinned apartments on the third and fourth floors, is cool about the prospects of a return with his wife and two children. “Shall we come back? Wait and see.”
Damages to Park View Horizon buildings in Dhapasi
The official line is there is no reason why the quake should signal an end to multi-storey buildings.
“High rises can be built here,” said Thapa. “We are revising the building code so that we can minimise the extent of damage seen in the buildings after the quake and make them more earthquake resistant.”
But experts say the disaster should serve as a wake-up call about the dangers of high-rise buildings in a city with a history of earthquakes.
“No dynamic soil test has been conducted in Kathmandu to measure how the soil will react to seismic waves,” said Deepak Chamlagain, a geology professor at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University.
“Some high-rise buildings have been built according to the Indian building code but geological conditions in the Kathmandu Valley are very different because the layer of clay in our soil can amplify the propagation of the seismic wave.”
While the fate of Park View Horizon hangs in the balance, some of its neighbours are clamouring for its demolition.
Prem Bahadur Lama runs a hotel which was full on the day of the quake. But he has had to close his business over fears Park View could collapse on top of it. He now sleeps under a tent on a vacant lot nearby. “With some neighbours, we opposed the construction of this building because we thought it would be dangerous,” said the 53-year-old. “We would like that the building be demolished but I’m not sure Nepal has the skills to do so.”
… reposting a 2013 article from ECS MAGAZINE because it gives a nice overview about contemporary life of Nepal in a variety of areas such as travel, architecture, music, fashion, theater, film, and much more.
Travel: Before we lose our Shangrilas
For the last 22 years I have been leading treks in not-so-far-away regions of Nepal that not only stay away from commercial trekking highways but also reward you with a Nepal that remains unperturbed by modern ways. For those living in Kathmandu, places like Langtang, Helambu, Panch Pokhari and Bhairav kunda, north of the valley, hold immense potential for tourism and trekking. These areas do not see throngs of trekkers (yet). From basic equipment, simple meals and hard walking in the 60s to state-of-the-art camping kits, balanced meals and professional teams, today Nepal can offer treks for all categories of tourists. This is why every year high-end clients from all over the world come here and keep coming back thereafter. For these time-poor clients, the availability of helicopters shortens longer treks.
With time there are high chances that we will lose some of these amazing trek routes and tourism opportunities here to ‘development’. Lets visit these Shangrilas before all is lost.
-Leading treks from the age of 18, Binod Rai (Director, Trek Leader for Insight Himalaya Treks) has a 22 – year experience of organizing and leading treks in Nepal.
Architecture: Old is gold
The architecture of Kathmandu has transformed from sporadic traditional buildings of sloped tile roofs, wood carvings and brick facades to a concrete jungle of flat roofs, weird looking columns with vase shaped capitals and glass facades. Today Nepal’s urban scape is a mishmash of few traditional buildings and a whole lot of concrete towers and colorful wedding cake buildings. It seems modernism and globalization has finally arrived in Kathmandu. Towering buildings with complete disregard to earthquake vulnerability have mushroomed around Kathmandu and its vicinity. The spread out buildings in a large parcel of land has now led to narrow buildings in a small parcel of land.
Hope however is not lost yet. There are also people who are dedicated to preserving and promoting the traditional architecture of Kathmandu. We can now see the facades of old buildings being renovated in the traditional silhouette of Kathmandu. There is the emergence of modern and sleek interiors but with a traditional exterior. Designing buildings with the contemporary style while still keeping the construction technique and soul of traditional buildings will and should be the future of Nepali architecture.
-Chandani KC is an architect and urban planner currently working as a consultant at the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction. She would love to design cities that are clean, healthy and aesthetically pleasing.
Handicraft: On our own
It is a strange world at times when one ponders. The Internet has put more than we need at our disposal and keeps us informed about happenings around the world. In this age of connectivity and rapid information exchange, we learn of trends from the western world faster than any other generation ever did. So at factories smelting singing bowls and drying woolen caps, more than anytime before, one knows what it takes to make it on their own. Youth that are this connected look to change conventional ways and approach newer methods. Rather than setting up craft shops they look to forge personal relations with clients and make sure that their cargo is well packaged and their invoices and packing lists are accurate. Such an efficiency is executed through out their operations. Combining this new work ethic with a rich history of handmade craft, the youth (at least) seem prepared to take on the world.
-Abhishek Mishra is a writer-musician who started working in the Nepali handicraft export business from a young age.
Food: What is Kathmandu eating?
Kathmandu is eating food from all over. Though daal-bhaat is still the staple combo – momos coming a close second – Nepalis are not ignorant of the international trends in gastronomy. Food from all over the world is available easily, including exotic ingredients in the supermarkets and corner shops of the capital as well as the bigger towns. A positive developing trend is the rising appetite for healthy eating, i.e. locally-sourced organic fresh produce, not that anyone is waving good-bye to instant noodles just yet!
The rise of exclusively Newari food only restaurants is symbolic of us Nepalis becoming inquisitive and appreciative of our own singularly unique traditions; finally, our curiosity and respect for our own cultural legacy and history is developing. The time has come to establish Npali food on the international culinary map, though one has to ensure it is not viewed ignorantly purely as a variant of Indian food.
-Kunal Tej Bir Lama is a restaurateur who runs Thamel’s popular Café Mitra.
Religion: Aunty ji’s kadi
When I was growing up in Birgunj, I would wake up everyday to the prayer sounds of the town mosque. It was a soothing sound, one that I still associate with my childhood. Renting a flat in our home there was a Punjabi family. A seven year-old me would watch aunty-ji tie up turbans on her sons’ heads as is customary for young sardaars. One day after taking me to the gurudwaara, she used an onion to tie up a faux turban on my head and put a kadi (a metal bangle) on my wrist. She told me that the kadi would always protect me from evil spirits.
-The author is a writer-editor at ECS Media.
Music: Over the years
The 70s in Kathmandu was dominated by western music; at least among the younger generation. This was partly due to the huge influx of hippies who seemed to have invaded the valley. They influenced the way Nepali youth dressed, spoke and what they listened to. The other reason of course is the fact that rock music was what young people all over the world listened to. Back then, Nepali rock hadn’t yet developed and ‘Aadhunik Nepali’ songs, was what one could listen to, besides folk. Until the early 80s, young Nepalis flocked to the City Hall to listen to local rock bands playing covers of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and others. But in the mid-80s, Nepali pop bands like
The Influence began to draw huge crowds playing their own compositions in Nepali. A new era had begun and soon Nepali rock bands singing in Nepali began to spring up all over the valley. Today, one can listen to Nepali Punk, heavy metal, death metal, rap and what have you.
-Dinesh Rai is a founding member of Prism, a popular rock band from the 70s. He was Editor of ECS NEPAL between 2004 and 2007.
Word on the street
When Barack Obama was reelected as the American president last month, there was bit of a feisty debate on Nepali tweetosphere. These days every issue of note, national and international, are instantly picked up, dissected, and discussed in the 24-7 micro-blogging cycle. From unique political and cultural humor to philosophy in Nepali witticisms and wisecracks and everything in between, the Nepali blogosphere is truly coming of age. Read and followed by ever increasing online readers, the writers and journalists have especially found an important platform to connect with the readers. As Kathmandu changes at a dizzying rate, a group of a small but a solidly passionate group of young writers, artists and poets seem committed to lead an apolitical evolution of some sort. And anyone can feel the buzz – from a sold-out spoken-poetry event to young writers featured on celebrity pages. We just need to make sure that this change isn’t fleeting.
Farming: Home grown trends
There was a time when farming villages in Nepal was often looked at as being backward. Ploughing your own fields to grow produce that would feed the population was something that people wanted to escape. Those notions are slowly changing with not just time but because of the exposure of many Nepalis to how the world is moving ahead.
Today along with tea, Nepali coffee too factors in strongly. There is a strong demand for organic produce in urban centers, where the population is starting to appreciate a responsible culture in all avenues of consumption. All these changing trends are not just good news for us city folk who will get to enjoy fresher produce. It is also a game changer for the country’s unhealthy trade deficit. With 80% of the population still dependent on agriculture, understanding the importance of bridging the gap between producer and consumer can change much more than just how we eat.
There has been a crucial shift in Kathmandu’s fashion scene. With the resurrection of the concept that minimal and simple designs qualify as works of art, a gradual departure from the chaos that was the local fashion scene can be observed. In the past one could find designers incorporating every possible element in their work. This extended to entire collections resulting in a notion that our designers lacked ingenuity and vision. The situation however, took a sharp turn with the arrival of designers such as Astik Sherchan, Nuzhat Qazi, Bina Ghale and Tenzin Tsetsen Bhutia in the scene. All of them however polished their designing skills abroad. The presence of homegrown designers in mainstream fashion is next to nil. Several reasons can be pointed out for this, but quality of education inarguably tops the list. Its high time for local fashion schools to revisit and rethink their vision and education system.
-Sumina Rai Karki is a fashion critic.
Science and Technology: A turning point
Science and technology (S&T) received a big boost when the Prime Minister of Nepal, Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai invited a few select scientists representing different fields to the PM residence a few months ago. This was the first instance a Nepali PM had recognized the importance of the field for the country and was taking advice for the future.
This may represent a turning point for the sector in Nepal, since to this day, S&T is still largely neglected in Nepal. While neighbours India and China are making leaps and bounds, we are yet to comprehensively use this knowledge for the diverse possibilities it has to offer. Biotechnology, one of the key areas of S&T brings billion dollar revenues to these countries. We should now start thinking of utilizing existing human resources and infrastructure towards this goal. This is probably the best opportunity we will have for the immediate future.
-Sameer Mani Dixit is a genetic research scientist at Center for Molecular Dynamics – Nepal, which he co-founded. Dixit also co-produced this year’s critically acclaimed Nepali film ‘Highway’.
Art: Young blood brings new energy
The youth of Nepal are inquisitive and enthusiastic; they are ready to take risks and push boundaries. No surprise then that the Nepali art world has seen flocks of young artists vibrant with the right attitude to bring positive changes in art. Lack of gallery space doesn’t bother them anymore nor are they worried about not being patronized by the state or others. Various experimentations in art have taken place in Nepal lately and the coming years should take a new exciting direction in art. Collaborative and public art projects will be some of the major catch-phrases for the next few years. Many artists will also want to experiment with paintings but with stronger content and an experimental attitude. I am confident that the next generation of artists will play a major role in bringing art back to the public domain, making it possible for every commoner to appreciate art and live with it.
As a career prospect, the growing needs of creative and artistic input in various sectors have opened up a multitude of areas where artists, designers and creative resources are urgently required. This urgency has confirmed that this field offers not only a flight of passion but also a possibly lucrative career. The various updated applied courses in art will soon be in high demand in the near future as more youngsters will embrace art.
-Sujan Chitrakar is an artist and Academic Program Coordinator for Center for Art and Design, School of Arts, Kathmandu University.
Fitness: The New Fitness Buzz of Kathmandu
Health and fitness is the new craze in Kathmandu and fitness centres are flourishing rapidly. Nowadays people are becoming more conscious about the way they look and their health and this positive attitude towards staying fit and healthy makes them feel good and look good! The West has always been ahead in the fitness scene but Nepal is slowly catching up. During the last 18 months, more gyms and fitness centres have opened offering classes from kick boxing, Bollywood dance, pilates to zumba and aerobics. The well attended classes amongst all age groups are mostly cardio workouts focusing on dance choreography and high impact movement to burn calories and to get fit. Women usually enjoy participating in a group class where they can follow an instructor where as men prefer to work out in the gym using machines and weights. Gyms and fitness centres offers a space to exercise freely and socialize. We should look forward to a country that not just looks good but is also healthy. The effects of such a trend are far-reaching, and healthy.
Theater: A bright future
Having grown up in a family inclined to theatre, I have been a close observant of the world theatre culture and the rich history of Nepali theatre. From the Malla era where theatre was the only leading performing art form in the country to the present scenario where theatre has had to endure strong competition with films and TV, it is a sheer delight to observe theatre culture in Nepal growing strong with time.
In many foreign countries, most theatre organizations that run successfully are funded by the government. In Nepal however, although the government has shown minimal interest, private theatre organizations like Sarwanam theatre, Aarohan Gurukul, Actors Studio, Mandala theatre and Shilpi theatre, all run by dedicated and passionate theatre individuals, deserve ovations for their selfless efforts that have turned theatre in Nepal into one of the most respected and popular performing art forms. Even as Nepali films run on empty houses, the overwhelming house-full audiences at theatre shows in Kathmandu speaks volumes about the growing popularity of Nepali theatre. The stage is set – the future of theatre in Nepal is indeed very bright!
-Sampada Malla is a theater enthusist who works at a top notch film production house in India.
Film: Exploring new avenues
There was a time when going to the movies in Nepal meant stuffy cinema halls showing super-strong heroes and overtly dramatic heroines dancing around trees. Fat forward just a decade and not only are those song and dance routines disappearing but Nepali cinema is actually starting to make sense to a larger audience; Berlin Film Festival-large. At home, these ground breaking movies got mixed reviews. Some movies have been accused of promoting violence while others panned for their use of colorful language. But the fact is, through good films and bad, these experimentations only mean that the Nepali film industry is moving forward. From tackling senstitive issues like same sex relationships to political ones like bandhs, these films portray a truer picture of Nepali society than ever before. The role of movies might not always be to bring about change, but in a society like Nepal where art is so inextricably tied to culture which in turn is seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives, these movies are asking all the right questions. Interesting times are expected for both storytellers and for movie-goers.
… dedicated by the famous Nepali rockband to all earthquake victims of Nepal.
About the BandDuring early 80s Kathmandu was still going through hangover of hippie era, it had a strong western music influence in the air. Mukti Shakya, a local growing up near Freak Street, picked up guitar, joined one of the most popular band “Radium” as bassist. Mukti was soon regarded as an inspiration to the up coming musician and idol to many musicians of the valley. His had and has fans in all kinds of different age groups from teenagers to old folks who are still singing his tunes and swinging to his rhythms all over the world. In the mid 80’s Mukti went to Spain with his wife, where he played and toured with different other bands.Mukti came back to Kathmandu in early 90’s. Noticing the change in the scene he decided that he needed to revive the old musical charm. Thus, he collected young energetic musicians Roshan Kansakar, Rabindra Shrestha, Binod Shrestha and started the Mukti and Revival. From performing for a crowd of 15000 at Kathmandu Durbar Square to 100’s at small bars and venues, Mukti and Revival’s music has never failed to mesmerize the crowd.
The band has performed all over America, Europe, Australia, Canada Sikkim,India.
With 4 albums and numerous Hits awards under their belt, Mukti & Revival holds a prominent space in Nepali Rock Music Scenario.
• Kalanki ko Jam
• Bujhhai Deu
• Dekhdai Chhu Ma
• Sadhai Bhari
… this is soooo worth a post: stories about everyday Nepalis fashioned after the popular ‘Humans of New York’. The photos are great in their own right, but by combining them with the short little stories they really come alive! See what the earthquake has done to the lives of people in different villages and I invite you wholeheartedly to follow Jaydev’s STORIES OF NEPAL page as a reguar reader!
It all started with a post about a young tea-seller, followed by a story on a neighbourhood barber, next to go up was a doughnut maker’s tale. Since then photographer Jaydev Paudel has shared hundreds of stories about everyday Nepalis on his Stories of Nepal page, fashioned after the very popular Humans of New York. Paudel’s stories struck a chord with Nepalis on Facebook and the page currently has over 129,000 likes.
“I had no idea Stories of Nepal was going to be such a hit, it was just a project to understand fellow Nepalis,” said Paudel, who moonlights as a graphic designer.
After the 25 April earthquake the 35-year-old set out in search of more stories. He was shocked by the destruction, but more impressed by the strength of survivors: such as this of a new-born earthquake baby in Kavre.
People offered to help, and Stories of Nepal took relief materials to 200 families and built 50 shelters in the quake-hit districts.
Says Paudel: “I had never before witnessed such love and compassion as I did in days after the quake .”
The earthquake destroyed my house so I went to the market to buy hammer and nails to fix it up. I also bought this nice bag while I was there.
Jyurme Lama (Melamchi, Sindhupalchok)
They call me mad but I am not. My parents died when I was really young. My relatives who raised me are also no longer alive. I have no family, friends, house, food or companion. Many times I have been beaten for no fault of mine. People pelt stones at me and children run away when they see me. They have no idea the rag I have on my head is to protect it from the wind which gives me a splitting headache. But once in awhile someone comes and talks to me.
Gyan Bahadur Dagar (Gumtha, Mugu)
As a child I was told dogs were filthy animals, they carried diseases and to stay away from them. I was never taught to love and respect dogs. Hence, I never really understood why we celebrated Kukur puja. After joining the army, I became a dog trainer. I have been with OT for nine years now, gave him basic training and then special training for search and rescue. I see so many qualities in OT that I wish were present in human beings. He is so pure, just look at him. I try to emulate him but am not sure how successful I have been.
Dipak Paudel (Thimi, Bhaktapur)
I worked in a poultry farm in Qatar for five years. My employer was a good man, he often commended me for my hardwork and praised me in front of his family and friends. The day I was leaving for Nepal he gave me Rs 100,000 saying it was a gift from his family to mine. I returned home and built a house for my family and one for my brothers with the money I saved. My children were going to school, crops were growing well, things were falling in place when the earthquake struck and I lost everything. A few days after the quake, my former employer called me on my phone. He said he had seen the news on tv and told me: ‘You are like my brother, tell me what you need. Come back if you need a job, I will send you a ticket.
Thapa Dai (Ghumthang, Sindhupalchok)
After a while even the tears run dry. I thought there was no point in sitting and crying anymore. So I picked up these tomatoes from our garden and started selling them to passers-by on the highway. If I can earn even a little amount, I will be able to buy rice and spices on my own.
Mina Tamang (Gyamdi, Kavre)
I was very handsome when I was young. The girls would start whispering to each other the minute they saw me. I think I still am. I am one of the few men in this village to elope with a girl. My family didn’t have enough money for an arranged marriage so I thought I’d just take her away with me. In those days love was very different. We were shy and communication was a lot harder. The youngsters these days have mobile phones so they fall in love over the phones. In our times love happened in person.
Bahadur Shrestha (Ghumthang, Sindhupalchok)
In the end we are all Nepalis. We all die when suffocated, and bleed when cut. The earthquake didn’t discriminate people on the basis of religion, caste, and class. Who are we then to set apart people when nature doesn’t.
Reposted from www.intrepidtravel.com here a fine interview with Nicholas Cowie, Intrepid’s General Manager for Nepal, who lives with his wife and children in Budhanilkantha, Kathmandu. He was there when the earthquake struck on April 25th, when pictures fell from the walls and the ground snaked and shook beneath his adopted hometown. James Shakell sat down with hism and asked him what’s next for Nepal and its people and the travel industry.
1. What were your experiences of the earthquake?
When the initial earthquake hit, my family and I had just returned from the ANZAC commemoration at the Australian Embassy. We could hear the earthquake approaching and felt the initial shakes. Being from Christchurch, New Zealand, we weren’t overly concerned.
However, the quake rapidly became more violent and we – myself, my wife and our two sons – came together to stand under a door frame between the kitchen and lounge. Pictures were falling from the walls, the refrigerator was moving across the floor and items were jumping from the now open cupboards in the kitchen. The noise was incredible.
There was a brief second when the shaking subsided, then began to increase again. We left the apartment and descended three flights of stairs, making it safely outside to open ground.
Each time another quake approached, you could clearly hear the rumbling. All the birds would fly up into the sky away from the trees, giving us just enough time to brace ourselves and ride the bucking ground.
When it was clear that the situation was under control at Park Village, I had to run eight kilometres to Thamel to meet our Operations Manager, Sujan. The phone lines were down. The closer I travelled to Thamel the chaos and damage increased. Telephone and power poles down across the road, cars and motorcycles in every direction, dust, debris and noise. I arrived at the Kathmandu Guesthouse where Sujan had bought all of our guests together. After we made sure everyone was safe and accounted for, we all evacuated to Park Village were tent accommodation had been erected.
2. What’s the situation like on the ground now?
I’m not an engineer, so I can only give an impression of the situation. What I can say is that the post-earthquake clean-up of streets has been rapid and effective. There has been a fast response to providing aid and shelter across the country. There’s a feeling of order and regrouping, and International aid organisations and the Government are actively communicating. Currently, a Post Disaster Needs Assessment is being done so an understanding of the medium to long term requirements of the affected areas can be made.
The focus is now on medium and long-term assistance to rebuild lives and jobs. We’re consulting with representatives from the World Bank/IFC World Bank Group, UN, large and small NGOs, the Tourism Recovery Cell and the Nepali Government to identify were we can be the most effective.
3. What are the big challenges going forward for the Nepalese people?
Establishing a sense of normality in people’s personal lives, looking after their children, families and friends. Rebuilding their lives and businesses. Tourism is a significant GDP earner for Nepal and has an impact on most households. I’m aware of people who currently have no income ability because there is no tourism. This includes trekking leaders, hotel staff, airline ground and air crew, restaurateurs, taxi drivers and shop keepers to name just a few.
We’re heading into what is normally the monsoon low season, when not many tourists visit. But it’s the uncertainty of what the August, post-monsoon season holds that is causing the most concern for people. The possible retrenchment of jobs and closing of businesses.
4. How have our trekking routes and itineraries been affected?
Our first priority was to put all itineraries on hold in Nepal until we could effectively determine each was safe. The engineering assessment process we’re a part of will provide us with an understanding of what needs to be done in Everest and Annapurna to reopen trekking routes. We’re working closely with engineers, authorities, hotels and visitor sites to understand the situation in Kathmandu, Pokhara and other areas.
5. What message would you have for people thinking of travelling to Nepal?
In Nepal, tourism creates jobs, jobs support families, families contribute to societies. Travellers who are willing to come to Nepal will directly and positively affect change for the better.
Please don’t cancel your trips to Nepal at this stage. We’re working very hard to get the engineering assessments and reports completed before the monsoon that will determine what work has to be done to reopen tourism safely for everyone.
Please tell all your family and friends about what Intrepid is striving to achieve for a sustainable tourism future for Nepal. Your collaborative voice will make a difference.
Intrepid Travel will be donating all profits from our 2015/16 Nepal trips to on-the-ground rebuilding projects supported by our not-for-profit organisation, The Intrepid Foundation. To learn more about our trips or this initiative, click here.
James Shackell – I was born in 1987 and aged from there. I like the sound of pop-rocks and dislike the sound of styrofoam. The length of my forearm is approximately the same as the length of my shin. My favourite Beatle is Ringo. I believe that junk food tastes so good because it’s bad for you and that your parents did the best job they knew how to do. If Johnny Cash wrote a song about my travels it would be called ‘I’ve been to several places but still have many other destinations on my to-do list, man’. Sometimes I have trouble finishing sen …
These are some of the moments captured by a group of 35 professional photographers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh and posted on the Instagram feed NepalPhotoProject (NPP). The account went live on April 26, a day after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan nation and is an initiative by Nayantara Kakshapati, 33, Bhushan Shilpakar, 35, Sagar Chhetri, 24, and Kishor Sharma, 33, who run a platform for budding photographers called Photo.Circle in Kathmandu, and professional photographer Sumit Dayal, 33, also from Nepal. The account was meant as a platform to aggregate critical and accurate information about the earthquake and its aftermath.
What it has also created is a moving and evocative account of one of the worst natural disasters in recent times, putting human faces to the numbers. “When the quake hit, we thought this would be a good way to put out useful and credible information from people we know and trust on the ground, all under one banner,” says Delhi-based freelance writer Tara Bedi, 26, who is currently curating and editing all posts on NPP.
With thousands of followers, Bedi knows that NPP is different from other handles and Facebook pages. “‘Putting such a personal face on this tragedy’ was one of the comments on a picture,” says Bedi. “This gives us an idea of how much our followers appreciate our work.” In times like this, the visual medium becomes more important than words, Chhetri adds. “It was this realisation that prompted us to set up the Instagram account. It is our job to take reliable pictures and we wanted those images to become a medium for people to reach out and help.”
Another factor was the unlimited space. “Instagram allows personal followers to sift through your images, providing a larger platform for the pictures to become visible,” says Prashant Vishwanathan, 33, a photojournalist from Delhi who has been reporting from Kirtinagar, Sindhupalchowk, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, all areas devastated by the quake. “Newspapers and other news media can carry very few photos as compared to social media.”
From New Baneshwor in Kathmandu, 28-year-old Nepalese photographer Shikhar Bhattarai posted a picture of a 95-year-old grandmother with a timeless smile on her face, discussing the last great temblor in Nepal with a relief worker – the 8-magnitude quake that also levelled homes and claimed thousands, in 1934. “There is no theme, just a mission to share, connect and keep the focus on the victims in Nepal,” says Bhattarai. “What we are beginning to realise is that it is not just the strength of the images that get responses, it is the stories they communicate,” says Bedi.
Old photos, a mirror and a clock hangs on a beam of a collapsed home in Bhaktapur. Photo by @shikharbhattarai
She was in her rented room with her grandson when the earthquake hit. “I have a knee problem so it was difficult for me to carry my grandson and run out of the room but I managed. But my house in Dhading (village near the epicenter) is no more.'” 84 year old Hajur Didi reading Mahabharata with her grandson in a shed opposite Maru Ganesh Temple of Kathmandu Durbar Square remembers about her ordeal. No one follows the path of Dharma, so is the cause of this disaster. She was 4 years old when the first mega earthquake hit Nepal.
A man going through the collected artifacts and sculptures inside the Bhaktapur durbar square. Most of the sculptures collected here are from the Vatsala Devi Temple that disintegrated after the earthquake. It will be a huge challenge to build inventories and restore the unimaginable loss faced by these ancient global heritage sites. Photo by @shikharbhattarai
Nepalese people remove debris searching their belongings from their house that was destroyed during the earthquake in Bhaktapur Kathmandu Nepal. Photo by @arunkthakur
More than 1-million Children have been affected by the Nepalese earthquake (or as 6-year old Gopal, cartwheeling here, described: “the big rattle). While schools officially reopen a week from now, there will hundreds of thousands who won’t be able to return to school. In many cases especially in the rural area’s schools have been demolished. Those that still stand are being used as temporary shelters… Here in Tundikhel (in the center of Kathmandu) kids play outside temporary shelters aware that they may not be able to go home, but perhaps oblivious to the long term implications the earthquake will have on their lives. ls ignorance not bliss in this case?? Who knows?
Photo by @samreinders
A woman walks past a collapsed temple at Darbar Square in Bakhtarpur, Nepal. The death toll due to the earthquake has reached 7,885 so far while the number of injured has shot up to 16,390, according to the officials.
Photo by @burhaan_kinu
Survivors look into a picture album, probably carrying images of their lost loved ones after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed and created mass devastation in Nepal.
Photo by @choudharyravi
More than 1200 houses has been destroyed in the village of Barpak in Gorkha. Once a picturesque village in Manaslu trekking route has now been turned into the pile of rubbles. “It will take months just to clear the debris”, say locals. Barpak was the epicenter of April 25 earthquake. Roadway has been blocked by the landslides and relief supplies by helicopter is not adequate, though authorities like to claim the situation to be normal now. Photo by @kishorksg
On our way to Kintang we drive across this truck ferrying volunteers from self styled Indian Guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s socio-spiritual organisation Dera Sacha Sauda. A few months ago the 47 year old guru was in the limelight when his film MSG – Messenger of God got tangled into controversy. The ‘rockstar baba’ received over a million hits on video sharing websites. We drove by MSG’s huge relief camp, located above Trishuli Bazaar. Saw hundreds of volunteers. All help is great and much appreciated at this point in time. Just as long as it doesn’t come with strings attached or a hidden agenda. Photo by @sumitdayal
Rebuilding is the villagers main concern as the monsoon is approaching. Villagers of Haibung ward no.3 are in the process of salvaging the corrugated sheets from the roof of their destroyed houses. Waiting for relief is not an option right now. What ever individuals can do for themselves is the best help they can get to sustain for the coming months. Photo by @sachindrarajbansi
… today for something different, yet still highlighting “modern life of Nepal”: after having posted about Lex Limbu, a Nepali blogger with a huge international followership (on Facebook alone almost 10,000), I recently stumbled upon my first Nepali fashion blogger.
There’s unfortunately not much information to be had about young Rajshree Rana who blogs under www.swankyrana.com and has a solid following of almost 1,400 on Facebook. Her posts focus on “Nepali street fashion & lifestyle” (showing mostly pics of herself, very cute) and the blog is more of a personal diary without my technical savvy. Enjoy some of her images here:
Today I stumbled upon a British woman blogger, currently living in Pokhara, doing an interesting post about Nepal’s star blogger Lex Limbu. This guy has a huge following both for his blog and in the social media and quite a history as the son of a Gorkha soldier spending his childhood and youth in many places other than Nepal. But read more about that in Louise’s interview with him below.
And here’s the scoop about “LuLuLoves Blog'” creator Louise Whatsham: after finding herself in a bit of a rut in the summer of 2014 , being unhappy in career, location and general mindset she decided that it was time for a big change. So in October of 2014 she was boarding a plane, alone, to Nepal, a country she hadn’t previously visited. She started off fuelled by anxiety and curiosity but is now filled with a new found happiness and appreciation for life, pursuing her dreams as a travel writer. For more about her, please see her story: Why I Quit My Job, Travelled The World & Ended Up Living In Nepal or subscribe to the LuLuLoves blog for worldly travel and lifestyle updates.
Lex Limbu is quite a phenomenon and I have been following his blog for a while now, catching interesting tidbits about the “in” people and what’s cooking in and around Kathmandu. See what Louise writes about him:
Lex Limbu – The Man of The Moment
There’s the Nepali media and then there is Lex Limbu. Described as ‘the number one source ‘Lex has become a singular media outlet in his own right representing the youth of Nepal. He is constantly updating his blog, lexlimbu.com, with important information about Nepali happenings from Nepal and the Nepali diaspora – it’s easy to see why this innovative 22-year-old is going places.
Boasting 44,000+ monthly unique users to his blogging site and almost 70,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, and with followers swiftly increasing on Twitter and Instagram, Lex’s influence in Nepal is fast growing, yet he is adamant that his blog should not be seen as a news website. I met with Lex at Pokhara’s Byanjan Grill & Lounge expecting to interview him in a formal journalistic manner. Instead we got lost in a two and a half hour conversation about our mutual passion for all things Nepal.
In the interview below Lex discusses the power of social media, making a difference in Nepal and his new business venture Tracing Nepal.
For those who don’t know you Lex, tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Dharan in the Eastern region of Nepal but as my father was a Gurkha soldier my family moved to Brunei in 1994, I was two-years-old. We stayed in Brunei for six years before making the move to the UK where I lived until 2004. Then it was back to Nepal between the years 2004 – 2006 where we lived in the Pokhara Gurkha Army Camp. After that we eventually settled in the UK.
I have spent the past year living in Kathmandu completing work experience jobs, internships and travelling around Nepal. I also set up my own company, Tracing Nepal, in August 2014, reconnecting Nepali’s that live abroad back to their roots. With regards to my blog, it has been going since 2008, I created it just before I started my degree at The Queen Mary University to study Human Geography.
You have almost 70,000 likes on Facebook, how does it feel to be so influential on social media?
I first started using social media when I was 17-years-old when I hadn’t experienced much of the world, I would just post anything that amused me at the time. Once you start to develop as a person you realise that you have to be very careful with what you share with the world especially as a public figure. I have to remember that what I now post and share on social media questions peoples thoughts. If used in the correct manner social media can be a powerful tool and if I can make a small difference to just one person a day then that makes me happy.
What is your opinion of internet trolling?
I don’t allow myself to be a victim of trolling. In the early days when I was ‘vlogging’ on YouTube I would get the odd comment that would leave me feeling vulnerable but you soon learn that people are attacking the person and not the subject. Once you react you instantly fuel the fire so I made the executive decision, when I was 18, to of course read all of my comments but to not let them affect me. You have to remember to not take it personally, people troll public figures online for all sorts of reasons and rarely is it out of genuine spite. I also have control over my social media channels so if I do receive a truly awful comment it can always be deleted or reported. I used to be quite opinionated online which encouraged trolls but I now tend to stick to the facts.
Do you find social media and blogging addictive?
Yes. I certainly have days where I question sharing so much about myself on the internet as it automatically leaves me open for public assumption and misunderstanding but I have a very loyal following who I interact with regularly on a personal level. I feel like I have now gotten to a stage where I can’t now stop especially as my following is increasing daily and I suppose to a certain extent people rely on my blog posts for information. My main demographic is 18-35 year-old Nepali’s, the majority of which are male, that tend to look on social media for their news fix instead of reading a newspaper. I use my social media platforms to influence a positive change so the addiction isn’t necessarily a bad one.
You have certainly become a journalist in your own right, have you had any sort of media training?
No, I am self taught. I studied Human Geography at University but that’s about as far as my media training goes.
What do you think the biggest problem with the Nepali media is?
One of the biggest problems for many media outlets in Nepal is that they have yet to realise the influence that social media has on an international scale. Many businesses in the West employ social media managers to update consumers regularly, this beneficial online strategy has yet to be acknowledged to its full extent in Nepal.
If you could change one thing about Nepal what would it be?
That would be Nepali people feeling limited in their environment, not realising their full potential and not seeing a life beyond their parents houses. Due to education generally being viewed as better in the West, Nepali’s are always encouraged to move abroad to seek a ‘better life’ yet what they don’t always realise is that things are on the up in Nepal and there is huge potential unfolding all around them. The most important thing in Nepal is networking, it’s all about who you know.
Tracing Nepal is an experience that aims to bring Nepali youth living outside of Nepal together to experience Nepal like never before. The whole idea is to foster the relationship between Nepal and Nepali people that now live abroad, reintroducing them to their heritage. The overall mission of Tracing Nepal was to create a memorable experience for the volunteers and to encourage the exchange of skills between Nepalis living at home and abroad. I feel confident that we achieved just that after completing the first sixteen-day excursion last August.
Tracing Nepal 2015 will run from Monday April 6th till Friday April 17th, the experience will consist of volunteers spending time at Maya Universe Academy followed by an epic journey across Nepal to Dobate Village in Ilam to see the endangered red panda. The experience will conclude with an adventurous high at the popular hub for thrill-seekers, The Last Resort.
What is next for Lex Limbu?
I am travelling back to the UK in May to be with my family. I then plan to study my Masters degree in Sustainable/ Global Development, an extension of Human Geography. I do want to return to Nepal in maybe five or six years time and my overall aim is to split my time between Nepal and the UK once I have established my own business. What will I do? I’m not 100% sure yet but definitely something in the tourism sector, something that will benefit Nepal. With regards to my blogging, I will continue to put information out there to my followers, to increase Nepal’s international exposure and I hope to help local communities whilst I’m at it.
“I don’t like the idea of creating an image so far from myself that I get trapped in it. The thought of living to maintain an idea for someone else is just suffocating. I can be funny, boring, kind, shy, honest, rude, mature and immature but at the end of they day – I am just lexlimbu.”
On March 15, 2015 there was a good post by Bibbi Abruzzini on the GoodElephant website, created by Alok Appadurai as a response to the barrage of media outlets who simply spew stories of drama, violence, greed, political corruption, anti-this-anti-that. Alok decided the world needed a media outlet that would celebrate inspiring stories from around the world of acts of kindness, love, empathy, community, collaboration, and uplift. Maybe you want to follow his great site, too.
Slums are largely known as crowded and unsafe areas where streets smell of sewage. In Nepal, artworks of epic scale in one of Kathmandu’s largest shantytown are increasingly attracting people to this seemingly inaccessible world.
Seb Toussaint and Spag from the Outsiders Krew, an art collective founded by British and French street artists, started splashing the slum with colors during their visit to Kathmandu in May last year. The artist duo, in association with the Nepal Children’s Art Museum, and a group of about 20 young painters, collaborated on the ‘Share the Word’ project to beautify the area.
Narrow crooked alleys and crumbling shacks have been turned into giant canvasses giving power back to the slum community in this fascinating labyrinth.
The initiative aims to understand what slum communities want to express and upgrade the habitable environment through art.
“They managed to turn the most horrible place in town into a livable and colorful neighborhood,” said Mr Arjun Khdak, a construction worker who has been living in the slum for the past 32 years.
What has now become an unexpected street art zone was built in the 80s on the banks of the highly polluted Bagmati river. Today roughly 800 people live in the slum’s 156 small houses.
Using art as a medium, the aim is to bridge the gap between this apparently blighted area and the rest of the city. The slum is situated right in the hearth of the city meaning that tourists, school kids and commuters can have a look at the monumental murals and interact with the inhabitants.
Many locals allowed artists to spruce up the walls of their tumbledown settlements with uplifting words such as ‘Change’, ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank You’. Locals themselves, especially the younger ones, took brush and colors and started wall painting under the eyes of curious passers-by.
In Kathmandu, squatter homes are periodically being demolished. The latest eviction occurred in 2012 when the municipality and the Armed Police Force dislodged 257 households without providing any alternatives, leaving around 944 people homeless. Despite warnings, most slum dwellers have rebuilt their homes on the same spot. Researches show that by tearing down houses, you also tear down social networks, which help people to cope with a difficult situation, and offer a sense of identity and belonging. This crowd-funded project on urban settlements around the world shows the power of slum upgrading initiatives, in contrast with eviction and bulldozing.
“I am not ashamed of living in a slum anymore,” said Sajana Silwal, while washing her clothes under the bright afternoon sun.
-Bibbi Abruzzini is a journalist for Good Elephantpassionate traveler working as a foreign correspondent in South Asia.
Good Elephant is dedicated to inspiring stories and mobilizing good. Are you a Good Elephant? Get involved. Apply to be a blogger from your country! Check out http://www.goodelephant.co/ !
Kolor Kathmandu was a year-long project of Sattya Media Arts Collective based in Kathmandu, lasting from August 2012 to August 2013. As a resource network and a connective place for artists, writers, filmmakers, photographers and other creative types of people Sattya has contributed to the creative world of Nepal since 2010.
Kolor Kathmandu transformed Kathmandu into an open gallery where creative expressions of modern Nepal go hand in hand with temples of ancient times. The participating artists and volunteers wanted to make art accessible to all, where art is done for the people, by the people, envisioning a capital that thrives in artistic hues truly representing the young nation that Nepal is emerging to become.
“… as we revive the streets and sights of the city, we allow artists and community members to direct what their neighborhoods should like. We want to inspire change through the streets, and make it our canvas. In doing so, we engage community to be reflective of the new Nepal that is going through a cultural explosion, based on inclusion, where stories of all groups and communities are equal and should be heard.
We believe that visual arts can be powerful agents of change to create ownership of the space and add value to the neighborhood, at the same time, foster an environment where citizens can reflect and witness the cultural revival of new Nepal based on inclusion. As we do so, we want to make people aware of elements, stories, and impressions of 75 different districts that each mural will represent, to give meaning to this public gallery.”
Kolor Kathmandu had a total of 60 artists taking part, 38 Nepalese and 22 international artists taking part. They painted 75 murals to represent the 75 Nepalese districts. Each artist, who had to apply and be accepted in order to participate, was given a district to research and had to come up with murals that represented that area.
SAPFP is a festival that celebrates the joy and the power of poetry. It provides a platform for the expression of thoughts and ideas and believes in unity in diversity. Poets and lovers of poetry meet and unite to celebrate two beautiful and important needs , peace and creativity. South Asian Poetry Festival For Peace 2015 will be held for two days, February 21 and 22, in Basantapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square premises.
South Asian Poetry Festival For Peace is scheduled to be held every year . Apart from the sheer joy of poetry, the festival aims to provide a platform where voices and visions are also shared. This is also a space where cultural exchange takes place.
21 February 2015, Saturday, 1:30 pm : Bansantapur Durbar Square
22 February 2015, Sunday 1:30 pm : Patan Durbar Square
The president of the festival, Chirag Bangdel says:
After the huge success of the first edition of the festival in 2013, here we are with the second!
The primary objective of the festival is to celebrate the joy and power of poetry and this time our focus has been poets writing in their ethnic and indigenous languages and styles. Each country in South Asia has a rich blend of tradition and culture. This includes dialects and different forms of literary endeavours.
The numerous forms of poetry form an integral part of culture. A lot of the local dialects of regions are disappearing and along with them, the different forms and styles of poetry. With this edition of the festival, we want to celebrate the different indigenous languages and the indigenous and folk forms of poetry.
So please come and celebrate with us the joy of poetry. Let us share the richness of our culture. Let us prove that we are united in our beautiful diversity.
After the huge success of the first edition of the festival in 2013, here we are with the second! The primary objective of the festival is to celebrate the joy and power of poetry and this time our focus has been poets writing in their ethnic and indigenous languages and styles.
Each country in South Asia has a rich blend of tradition and culture. This includes dialects and different forms of literary endeavours. The numerous forms of poetry form an integral part of culture. A lot of the local dialects of regions are disappearing and along with them, the different forms and styles of poetry. With this edition of the festival, we want to celebrate the different indigenous languages and the indigenous and folk forms of poetry. So please come and celebrate with us the joy of poetry. Let us share the richness of our culture. Let us prove that we are united in our beautiful diversity.