Nepali Times
Review
Shooting Maobadis



Maobadi
Kevin Bubriski
Himal Books
93 pages

The Maoist PLA is the 400-pound gorilla in any room where Nepal's peace process is debated. Close to 20,000 ex-combatants remain in 28 cantonments across the country, over four years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, and their future is still uncertain. But it is astonishing just how easily both politicians and the public have forgotten the physical reality of this extended, listless stay in sub-tropical camps.

There is also a tendency to lump the ex-combatants together with little regard to their individuality. They may all be 'Maobadi', but each cantonment, composed as it is of young men and women from different ethnicities and localities, is a microcosm of Nepal. Beyond this, they are individuals with their own histories and aspirations.

Kevin Bubriski's new collection of cantonment portraits, Maobadi, is an attempt to remind Nepalis that 'along with the collective identities of ethnic, economic, geographical and political affiliation are individual lives in the balance'. Indeed, as an introductory essay by Toby Alice Volkman notes, the portraits of the ex-combatants, often staring directly into the camera, are truly empathetic. Caught in the act of gardening, eating, woodworking, playing football, exercising Bubriski's subjects appear no more radical than anybody else. Their extreme youth may also contribute to this impression, of course; one can't but conclude that many of those featured should have been disqualified as child soldiers or late recruits.

Despite the helpful background information provided by Deepak Thapa and General Sam Cowan, however, the portraits themselves (taken in two of the cantonments) could have done with more support in the form of captions. Somehow, it's not enough simply to know that Dinesh Kaphle of Makwanpur is 21, or that Asta Bam of Kalikot is 23. Given the fairly predictable camp setting, lengthier captions would have enriched the visual detail. Who is Dinesh? What does Asta want?

Maobadi is a timely, humanising memoir of cantonment life from a veteran of Nepal. If limited in scope, it will nonetheless form a part of the corpus of documentation of the Maoist war. For only when the nation as a whole understands what brought about the insurgency can it really begin to move on.

Rabi Thapa

There will be a photo exhibition on Maobadi from 10-13 March at Indigo Gallery (Mike's Breakfast), Naxal, 4413580

READ ALSO:
Listen to your Mama!



1. jange

Why did they go around killing in order to achieve their objectives?

Did they not know it was wrong?

Did no one tell them?




LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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