When she was a young girl, Ashmina Ranjit wanted to fly. She'd watch the clouds, feeling envious of their freedom. She took this as a sign that she may one day become a pilot.
However, the future had a very different path in store for her. Ashmina did well in school, and went on to Australia to do her Bachelors in Fine Arts. She came back and started teaching art at Tribubhan University. Anyone who's experienced Ashnima's art will tell you that few walk away from it without questioning the very fabric of their own existence. She's moved away from canvas and is experimenting with new forms, using whatever her expression demands. "My art is social. It's political. It works with women and sexuality. It questions," she says.
These questions have thrown up paradoxes. She recalls a series she painted on women and sensuality to exhibit in Kathmandu. "As a woman I was talking about and expressing sexuality. To know your body is your right. Women need to know their own bodies." Ashmina was accused her of being obsessed with sex, and people put it off to her time in Australia.
Back in Australia she showed the same series. There they appreciated her bold expression. Ashmina recalls, "They said, 'You paint like this because you are from Asia, from Nepal, you're Hindu. That's where the kamasutra comes from.'" The extremes in reaction in the two audiences threw up contradictions for Ashmina, and she felt no one really understood her work.
Ashmina got thinking about how she could bridge the divide. She wanted to create a platform for artists to interact, an organisation that would invite artists from around the world to see how Nepali artists work and send artists abroad whenever possible. Today, Ashmina has a huge network across the globe and in November 2003 her vision was realised formally as the group 'Sutra'.
At a workshop this week organised by Sutra at the Osho Tapoban forest retreat in Nagarjung, Ashmina and the six other core members of Sutra were working to bridge another gap: a generational one. Twenty-one renowned and senior artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians alike attended a productive four-day workshop. Now at 37, Ashmina leans back and thinks: "Finally, I am flying."