Nepali Times
We all make each other.


Exhibiting baldness I'm offering belief
a past leave belief, a coming belief
a living belief
beliefs of many colors we can't
ourselves believe
belief is adhering somewhere as a root
one belief is enough for me
one present time is enough for me
to come and go in it, to see the face of
Mohan Koirala, "The Roots of a Pumpkin Plant"

Wayne Amtzis's photographs show us the faces, gestures, clothing and expressions of the discarded of Kathmandu-and they offer us a chance to see ourselves honestly. They are elegant but also direct; they do not let us dodge. They insist that we acknowledge our most personal failings as they manifest in others.

We all make each other. The person on the street becomes an art object and creates us, elite gallery viewers. At the gallery we view a photograph of a person we wish to fix as art. The relationship is an unequal one, and we are right to feel exposed in our culture and refinement, for it is in our culture and refinement that we have used others-we have overworked them, undervaluing their labor, violating their rights, and though they have served our purposes we have made but a marginal place for them in our midst. It is in our culture and refinement that we have made the homeless, the hungry, and the hapless of our land. In their culture and refinement they have (so far) let us be.

What was revolution? What did it look like? How would it come? And once it came, where would it stay? What would it eat?.Uncle always explained, without any irritation, as much as he could: "See, after the revolution there'll be democracy in our country. And after democracy everyone will get to study, to learn how to read and write. Everyone will be able to eat, sharing their portions with each other. No one will stay hungry, no one will die helplessly because they can't buy medicine."
Ramesh Vikal, "Gyanee Uncle"

If we were to be political, we could say that Amtzis is giving representation to the subaltern: his body of work poses a challenge to our body politic. The day laborer poses a challenge to the art lover, the blue collar worker, the intellectual. If we were to be more personal, we could say that Amtzis is encouraging us to maintain a fearless view onto ourselves and our society. Looking straight at weathered hands and cracked heels, sun-stained faces and work-stunted bodies could open our hearts if we let it. We could leave the gallery wanting to restore dignity to those we have cast off.

The subjects of Ann Hunkins's photographs, by contrast, include some of the most distinguished personalities of Nepal: writers and poets, playwrights and men and women of letters. Daulat Bikram Bista, Dev Kumari Thapa, Banira Giri, Manju Kanchuli, Dhruba Sapkota: these are the men and women entrusted to speak for
us all.

The streets which are exhausted
having taken many children to school
having led many sons to border
having returned many fathers from
their offices
these streets by now shattered in
yes, all these streets
I carry on my shoulders
Bairagi Kainla, "The Mountain"

Their literature captures the perplexity of our times, the questions that haunt us, our moments of disappointment and deliverance. Hunkins is intimate and imaginative in the way she portrays each writer, capturing them at moments garrulous, reflective, interior or watchful. Her portraits highlight the individuality of each person, and remind us how lucky we are to have these writers amid us, enriching our times with their work.

What complex worlds reside in each of these writers-live repositories of our culture? And what complex worlds reside in the dispossessed who idle in Kathmandu's public places-also live repositories of our culture?
By exhibiting Amtzis's and Hunkins's photographs side by side, Siddhartha Art Gallery allows us to celebrate our contemporary culture's riches and to account for its penury.

Things are so far gone now-
with each new birth a martyr is born
a funeral march is born
a shroud is born
You're seeing all this, aren't you?
Dinesh Adhikari, "The Other Side
to Belief"

(Wayne Amtzis's "Rite of Way" and Ann Hunkins's "Writers Seen" are on display at the Siddhartha Art Gallery, Babar Mahal, till 4 December. Amtzis and Hunkins will give a poetry reading at the gallery on Sunday, 24 November, at 4 PM. )

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)