18-24 March 2016 #800

The solace of art

A unique crossborder art initiative tries to remember the tragedy and pay tribute to the earthquake victims
Michael Nishimura

As the anniversary of last year’s April earthquake approaches, a unique crossborder art initiative tries to remember the tragedy and pay tribute to the victims. Shortly after hearing about the disaster, over 90 Bangladeshi artists donated works and held a fundraiser at the Athena Gallery in Dhaka in solidarity with Nepali artists.

Supported by residencies at Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre and BINDU, Space for Artists, ‘The Solace of Art’ showcases the work of five artists severely affected by the earthquake, illustrating the nation’s collective trauma.

Sandhya Silwal and Anil Shahi’s pieces on the first floor of the exhibition focus on the simplicity of the everyday. Silwal uses light colored backgrounds juxtaposed with black cutouts, signifying the need to remove negativity from our lives through her intricate works channeling the Wheel of Life. Similarly Shahi, through his theme of ‘Diaries of the Unsung’, envisions the daily lives of people on the street, utilising both broken and unbroken mirrors to inspire the viewer to interactively reflect on their own place in the community.

“Normally in our society, many people on the street are thought of as unsuccessful or broken. So in this piece, the visual pattern represents all kinds of people,” says Shahi. “It’s a sketch of everyone’s diary.”

Jeewan Suwal of Bhaktapur capture his city’s heritage in a combination of aesthetics ranging from striking colours of bright yellow and orange of monks’ robes to dark hued skies in varying textures. The spontaneity in his work encapsulating losses of home demonstrates the pains of overcoming trauma.

“After the earthquake I lost my home, I lost my father and I was traumatised. I was confused and I didn’t know how to start new work,” he says. “But then the mind clicked, and with support from Bangladeshi artists, everything became my inspiration. Gradually elements became more defined and I found my peace inside.”

Jenney Ghale and Muna Badel’s works occupy the final floor, dovetailing journeys of memory and self-reflection. Ghale from Dhading invokes the ‘selfie’ as a technological phenomenon that breeds superficiality and leaves the self paradoxically more isolated even in a crowd. As Ghale explores the gnawing human desire to be someone else, Badel’s series depicts a woman aging through time yearning for what once was. She portrays a stoic, wrinkled face that is guarded by vibrant dress, covering up emotions that changed vastly from those of a free-spirited youth.

Thirty-one other Nepali artists from different disciplines and a community in Sankhu were also supported by artists from Bangladesh in an effort to preserve culture and livelihood in the wake of the destruction.

The launch on March 13 was dedicated to recently deceased award winning Bangladeshi film director Khalid Mahmood Mithu, who along with his wife, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, spearheaded the fundraising effort.

His powerful words echo the themes of unity and resilience: “Because of the earthquake, all artists united for one aim, one goal. It was truly something inspirational and marvelous.”

‘The Solace of Art’

Till 29 March at Siddhartha Art Gallery

Baber Mahal Revisited.