Taking Kathmandu as the geographic setting, and with focus on activists of six social and political movements during the constitution writing process, photographer Surendra Lawoti’s (pic, right) exhibit This Country is Yours
aims to provide space to “the historically marginalised.”
NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati spoke to Lawoti about his ongoing exhibition
What led you to start this project? What inspired you to look at these issues?
A lot has happened in Nepal in the last twenty-five years. I wanted my work to be about this transformation in Nepal. I wanted to make a body of work of contemporary Nepal that was socially, politically and visually engaging. As the work developed, I decided to focus on the six marginalised groups and their activists during Nepal’s constitution writing process. I chose to work with these six groups because they are some of the key identities that have been historically marginalised and who face a tremendous representational deficit in the current constitution writing process. This work aims to facilitate recognition of these identities and the larger issues that surrounds them.
As a photographer, how do you feel about visual representation of marginalised people or lack thereof?
Visual culture in Nepal is not as developed as in the West. Most of visual representation of Nepal is done through the exotic lens - images of mountains, temples, rustic portraits of ethnic people and so on. I think there is a lot to be done in representing the marginalised in a respectful way. One of main reasons why I wanted to work with the six groups is that these activists are barely represented visually. It is my hope that my photographs serve as records of our historic moment.
How have you dealt with insider/outsider issues in this body of work?
My work is based on intensive research - reading, talking to people, interviewing people, and explaining the scope of my work and its potential dissemination to the participants. It is also a long-term body of work. I am not parachuting in with a fancy camera and am shutter happy for a day or two. I try to understand the underlying issues, its nuances as much as I can to blur the boundaries of the other.
THIS COUNTRY IS YOURS
16 May to 1 June, 11am to 7pm
Nepal Art Council, Babarmahal
Screening of Sweat Drenched Land by Arun Pradhan, 16 May, 5.30 to 6.30pm
Gallery walk-through with Surendra Lawoti, 17 May, 3 to 4pm, [email protected] to register
Panel discussion on ‘Visual representations of marginalised groups or lack there of’, moderated by NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, 22 May, 4 to 5pm
Artist talk with Surendra Lawoti, 25 May, 4 to 5.30pm
Surendra Lawoti offers portfolio reviews for Nepali photographers and visual artists, 31 May, all day, [email protected] to register