Nepali Times
Self-portrait of Sikles

PhD theses are usually dry and academic, but Sara Parker, a geography lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, has built on her dissertation to get the entire village of Sikles in the Annapurnas involved in a photography project.

Parker first came to the scenic Kaski village in 1992 to teach English, and researched the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). She knew well the founder of ACAP, Chandra Gurung who was also a native of Sikles. In 2009, she started working on a photo documentation project, under which she distributed cameras to the men and women of Sikles to take pictures of their everyday lives.

A selection of some of the 5,000 images they took was exhibited in Sikles itself earlier this month, and the book, Our Village Our Life: Sikles in Focus, will be released in Kathmandu on Friday.

The book is unique because the pictures in it capture the sense of community of the stunningly beautiful Gurung villages that are going through tremendous transformation. This is not a coffee table book by some famous western photographer, these are images of Nepalis as they see themselves.

"There was very little training. We wanted the villagers to tell their own stories and started with teaching them just the basics but when the first pictures came out, we were amazed," Parker told Nepali Times, "in between the extreme portrayals of Nepal, their images have beautifully captured the reality of village life."

The project aims to involve the villagers in documenting their culture, rituals and traditions in pictures and to use them for the promotion of Sikles as a tourist destination.

Sara poses with the participants of the photography training in Sikles
Parker got local organisations like the Madhi Khola Women's Organsation, the Sikles Youth Group and the Annapurna High School involved in the project. Using donated digital cameras, 15 villagers took pictures over a two-year period of festivals, rituals, farming, herding, honey-harvesting and other everyday activities.

Proceeds from the sale of the books, the national and international exhibitions, will go to support schools in Sikles, the local youth club and the healthcare and other activities of the ACAP. It will also help the Chandra Gurung Foundation, named after ACAP's architect who died in the tragic helicopter accident in Ghunsa in 2008.

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One school at a time, RUBEENA MAHATO

1. suk bahadur gurung
it is good news,

2. SP Panth
This is nice but I guess Nepali Times is focusing TOO much on photography. In this edition alone, Nepali Times features two articles about photography alone (one this and the other one about a guy in Toronto.) Not one issue goes without an article on a photography exhibition. Some articles on photography exhibitions may be too boring for the layman so I suggest Nepali Times to come up with engaging and interesting articles that would cater to the majority. Nepali Times is getting a bit boring these days. Revive your charm!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)