Sediments: Resisting Anonymity
Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, is a centrifuge that spins and separates people into sediments of varying density. The fundamental nature of Kathmandu as a contemporary urban city is its claims of reinvention and prosperity. People’s imaginations of themselves are flattened into hopes of owning a motorbike or car, buying a plot of land, building a well-lit aired home, or schooling one’s children in a boarding school. Amidst a search for a better life and upward mobility, we find ourselves in parallel, segregated communities that rarely intersect. There exists an erasure of stories that connect us to our past. We are too busy to question how this segregation happens or look at how the ‘Us’ /’Them’ binaries that define our communities were created.
In this whirl of urban growth, an act of listening to a story plays out as an act of resistance. Questioning the phenomenon of anonymity and amnesia around us reduces the centrifugal force long enough to get a glimpse of how the sediments settle.
In this exhibition, six artists based in Kathmandu, Sunita Maharjan, Lavkant Chaudhary, Mekh Limbu, Subas Tamang, Sanjeev Maharjan, and Sheelasha Rajbhandari place at the centre their own histories and reveal layers of sedimentation. In the current multiplication of goods, amenities, and a growing vertical sprawl, how are we being arranged and rearranged according to our social and economic status? How do different communities remember their own histories? How do we see the enactment of resistance in these memories?
Photographs and artefacts play a central role in each of the artists’ process. The stories, however, unravel in different mediums. Suni collages, layers prints on textile, and sews to depict an urban landscape of terraces where people’s access to the skies are defined by their socioeconomic status. In contrast, Sanjeev draws, paints, and photographs his ancestral seeds as he uncovers his Maharjan family’s vast knowledge and memories of a once fertile Kathmandu. Sheelasha creates miniature sculptures that recreate her grandmother’s memories ofliving in the heart of the city, at the crossroads of Kathmandu’s trade route between India and Tibet. Subas engraves and prints a well-known image oflaborers carrying a car into Kathmandu in the 1930s. He questions the recounting of this history by approaching it from the eyes of Tamang laborers, enslaved by the state. Mekh erases and layers text to show the resistance of the Limbu language against repression by the state. Lavkant draws and carves the words that were used to enslave the Tham community.
Each artist resists the grand narrative about national development promoted by those in power. The artists express a need to understand how history has affected their families and their surroundings. They invite the viewer to reflect on themselves and to question history always from the margins.
In order to further engage in a dialogue with the works, I am working with the artists and the online publication The Record (www. therecordnepal.com) to create a podcast series entitled Encounters. They will be released over the next six months.