Nepali Times Asian Paints
Life Times
Portraits of a proletariat

Marcus Benigno

People During Change, an exhibition of 22 pastel portraits by artist Maki Gurung, paints a personal protest against social repression. With his Kathmandu debut at the Cosmopolitan Training Center (CTC) in Jhamel, Gurung confronts the plight of ethnic and gender minorities, state brutality and the common disregard for manual labour in Nepal.
Gurung's palette incorporates a wide spectrum of oil pastels and spot colours that accentuate the movement of facial muscles and render almost palpable expressions.

In a work bluntly entitled 'Police Beating a Proletariat', Gurung vividly captures a protester's anger and determination as authorities beat the man during a Maoist banda. "When I was photographing the strike, I was also almost hit," said Gurung, whose nameless subjects are drawn from news images and photos of strangers he had taken.
'Federal New Beauty' depicts a woman he found pictured along an article about the Tamang New Year.

Born in Nepal to a Gurung father and a Japanese mother, the 26-year-old artist considers himself first and foremost Gurung and calls Patiswara, his father's native village in Gorkha district, home.

"The word Nepali is very much associated with invasion. The Gorkha people invaded all of Nepal and had many colonies that exploited local people. So I don't like the word Nepali. I am Gurung," he said.

The self-professed anti-nationalist communist, however, admits to a bourgeois upbringing in Kathmandu that included private lessons from his mentor and Japanese artist Yuki Shirai, who now runs CTC. While studying sound engineering in Japan, Gurung honed his craft, holding two art exhibitions and playing guitar in bands. Since 2009, Gurung has performed with the Kathmandu-based anarcho-ska-punk band Naya Faya.

True to his far-left leanings, Gurung funnels proceeds towards projects such as a non-profit cooperative shop and a pig farm he initiated in Patiswara. With an inheritance from his father's estate, he also constructed a commune in Kathmandu valley, where he and six others have been sharing their incomes and living sustainably for the last two years.

"I don't think capitalism is a natural way of living," Gurung says. "People should either farm or have a technical skill like a shoemaker or a blacksmith. Today, the main occupation in the world is being a middleman."

Last year, Gurung planted 360 orange trees in Patiswara and plans to relocate his commune to the village as soon as the trees begin to fruit. For now, the would-be farmer works as an Art Teacher at CTC and hopes to sell his portraits.
Gurung asserted: "Art shouldn't be limited to the bourgeoisie, but it is now. It should be for the proletariat. If you're farming for your own consumption, then you only have to work two hours a day. You can spend rest of your time doing art and being creative. But right now the poor are working too much."

People During Change: Portraits by Maki Gurung at Space-Y, Cosmopolitan Training Center, Moksh, Jhamel
11 " 25 November, 11am to 6pm

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)