British artist Jan Salter made the transformation from pure painter to activist a decade ago when she first started painting the faces of Nepali women and girls who had been trafficked.
An exhibition of those works, Don't Turn Your Back On All Our Daughters: Keep The Promise, is on display at Yala Maya Kendra this weekend. Salter has made Nepal her home for the past 30 years. A collection of her paintings and drawings of Nepali faces was previously released in the book, Faces of Nepal.
Her work with Maiti Nepal spans almost a decade. The sensitively rendered paintings of Nepali women reflect the artist's concern about Nepali girls being trafficked to brothels in India and her work with those rescued and those living with HIV.
"When I first started working with these young girls, I thought it was going to be extremely difficult but they were like any other young girls, they liked to laugh and tease each other. There was an urgency to stay happy, maybe because some were extremely sick and all had gone through really difficult times," she says.
Salter captures the humanity, compassion and tolerance that shines through the faces of Nepalis. "Some critics said I should have put more agony in the paintings," Salter tells us, "how could I when the girls did not want the paintings to reflect their hardships? They would dress up for the occasion and they said they wanted to like it when they saw themselves in the canvas."
The purpose of this exhibition sponsored by the UN's World Health Organisation is to inform people that trafficking is a serious and ongoing problem.
Salter admires Maiti Nepal's Anuradha Koirala, calling her a "Nepali heroine" and a champion of the disenfranchised. She also hopes that through her exhibition, more people will understand that those trafficked are no more than little girls, she says "They look just like you, your daughters or sisters. It could have been you, the only reason they are there and not you is by a mere chance."
Don't Turn Your Back On All Our Daughters: Keep The Promise, by Jan Salter, 9-13 December at Yala Maya Kendra, Patan Dhoka.