I have settled into a routine here at MCUBE Gallery in Patan. I awake naturally every morning around 7am, drink 2 cups of hot water and follow Manish in Yog; a very much not western version of Yoga where we loosen each joint from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet, use breathing exercises and end with meditation and OMs. Then I cook 2 soft boiled eggs and make toast with honey while I enjoy juice or tea and read The Himalayan, a local newspaper which prints both an English version as well as a Nepali version. By the time this routine is finished, it’s about 11am and I’m free to go about my day.
I have started to meet many artists here and I’m fascinated by how similar our minds work. Women’s rights are different in this part of the world and the political statements that are made intrigue me. Compared to what is happening in the United States, where the political climate of issues circles around environmental, immigration and females; it’s obvious we have moved mountains already. Here they are conflicted with the modern existence; struggles with traditions and accepting women to have minds of their own, understanding the complexities of science and how to better their world. Life is much harder here and the general idea has been surrounding community where everyone plays their part, one life may only be a cog in the wheel, humility is readily practiced to the point of not being able to accept each as an individual.
This has created a dissonance within my mind of art in this world. While each artist works in their own studio and own works, there is a great overlap of ideas that are displayed in unique styles, representing their own imaginings of how their world is vs how they want it to be. The other day, I visited a studio nearby called Kasthamandap Studio where I met, conversed and viewed works by 5 Nepali artists who show throughout the world. Erina Tamrakar who has evolved through being a woman, Bhairaj Maharjan who enjoys landscapes and explores the idea behind Buddha and peace, Binod Pradhan who has an impressive array of landscapes melted together using a watercolor technique, Pramila Bajracharya who uses oil to convey simple and emotional landscapes and Asha Dangol who focuses on juxaposing new with old ideas and his own body to evoke thought on violence, peace and new beginnings. All of their work is visually stunning and each studio represents their artistic perspective and their influence through ideas even while they are all striving collectively through the Nepal art community. I learned that after the big earthquake almost 3 years ago, there was an upswing of creativity while they struggled with petrol shortages, a divergence into the modern world as many historical temples were destroyed and a coming to terms with environmental damage and global warming.
Afterward, we stopped off at Beautiful Coffee in Sanepa. Beautiful Coffee is run by a South Korean woman, who is passionate about Fair Trade Coffee and produces the best cafe latte I’ve had in Nepal. She explained the process where they get beans, and shows off the spacious and open front courtyard filled with signs about love and coffee, then the inside which houses a coffee museum and more punny signs intended to leave you with a laugh. We spoke about possibilities of creating a Breakfast at Bethany type party with spoken word, live art and music to transform your soul, all with the assist of tasty coffee and the main ingredient of love. We left after deciding to throw a BBQ on Friday inviting all of the Koreans and others who we’ve met thus far, so we can get to know each other even better and explore further possibilities of promoting love, our common language.
As Graham and I have gotten to know our host, Manish, we have discovered his many pursuits, one of which we are in talks to help promote in the United States. His non-profit Get Well Soon Nepal, an organization using art therapy to help children and families after the big earthquake. We want to use pashmina, which is woven and created into scarves, ponchos, blankets and other items in his textiles factory started by his late mother Urmi to promote and sell, reserving a portion of profits toward earthquake relief. In starting this path, we have needed to create content and we spend a portion of yesterday modeling, taking photos and deciding what would sell best in the United States. This is an exciting venture as we’ve been talking about starting a company of this kind and I even made moves to do this type of project last year with another organization, unfortunately ending with a lack of communication.
Last night, Graham and I attended a play by Anton Chekov and Adapted by Rose Schwietz, an american who directed and acted in the piece alongside Nepalis. The play was in english and the easiest to follow Chekov adaptation I’d witnessed. It was entertaining to hear the Nepali accents speak about wanting to go to Moscow, though it reminded me of not only my own desire to return to Nepal but the sentiment expressed to me from many Nepalis of wanting to go anywhere else. It was clear this production didn’t have a lot of money for set and costume design though the use of the space and elements played to their ingenuity and capacity to create something from nothing. Rose played the general which normally is a male role, turning a light on LGBT issues which is just starting to come out in this country. It was evident that many students had never been subject to lesbians as a simple kiss at the end led to gasps and shocking photos.
I feel protected and separated from the streets in this residency, which I’m sure my parents are happy with, though it removes a layer of being with the people. I’m seeing a different side of Nepal, the side of people who have luxury to travel and portray their world, the side that has a bed and meals every day, the side of business and commerce that helps and promotes the people who need it, and there are so many people who are in need. Interesting that the people I have met look down upon beggars, they want to protect me from seeing the dark side because they are afraid that is how I will view their country. I see the beauty within the struggle, maybe because I have struggled too. I understand that struggle leads to enlightenment, that to suffer is to live.
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