Nepali Times
Flinging open the doors

To one side, an artist is working to transform the aluminium strip on a bullet-proof door from the French Embassy. Nearby, another artist splatters red on a wooden door-as if someone has been shot in front of it.

There are other doors: one with wires taped across it, another with a second door painted upon it, a black door is being painted on by well-known artist Asha Dongol and a differently abled person.

Someone just visiting the 108 Doors Project at Siddartha Art Gallery may just walk past admiring the artistic strokes and colours that brighten these usually utilitarian objects and miss the message.

"The doors are about dialogue," explains Siddhartha's Sangeeta Thapa, "it is bringing together different communities."

Inspired by the Rene Magritte painting 'La reponse imprevue' and the 100 Doors Project held in October 2004 in Belgium, this version has been modified and adapted for Nepal. The Lincoln School's Jonathan Edou is coordinator of the program for students at Bal Mandir and Siddartha is running a parallel program for artists, poets and social groups to contribute 35 of the 108 doors.

"I believed it was more realistic to have professional artists and amateurs collaborate, as they could help interpret each others ideas," says Thapa. The number 108 was chosen not only because is it considered a 'perfect' number but also because it seen as auspicious in Nepal.

"The symbol of the door has similar connotations," heritage expert Anil Chitrakar explained during one of a series of workshops that accompanied the painting sessions, "inside the door is heaven, outside is hell and the door itself is seen as the middle ground."

But that is not the last word on the meaning behind the doors, with various participants contributing their own understanding.

"The door works is a metaphor for post-modern politics," says Sanjiv Upreti from Tribhuban University who coordinated the poetry side of the project, "it celebrates differences from various backgrounds, it is a rejection of preconceived notions and hindrances, it is looking at each other openly."

The artistes assigned to each door brought together people of different religions, classes, sexual orientation, political viewpoints, societies and even nationalities. Says Thapa: "People said it was impossible to get a guerrilla and a general to work on a single door, I was determined to prove them wrong". Last Saturday, she managed to bring a former Maoist and a serving soldier into the gallery at the same time, but they worked on different doors.

Thapa says the finished products reflect the opening of participants' minds and ideas but more important was the camaraderie between painter, poet, author, soldier and citizen. Even onlookers joined the creative process.
At the end of it, everyone felt doors had been opened and the feeling that reconciliation is possible.

Aarti Basnyat

The next 108 Doors Project workshop at Department of Fine Art, Kathmandu University, Bhaktapur, from 9AM to 6PM on 18 March Saturday.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)