Nepali Times
The passionate pacifist


If you walk to Basantapur on Saturday, 17 November and you pass the Kumari House you will see a pyramid of newly-harvested paddy (dhaan) with an AK-47 stuck on top. No, it will not mean an escalation of guerrilla warfare between the government and the Maoists. It will in fact be the latest installation art exhibition by Nepali artist, Jyoti Duwadi, trying to draw attention to the world's gun culture through art.

"What I am trying to show is how much rice can be bought with the same amount money that it costs to buy an assault rifle," Duwadi told us while preparing for his exhibition. The show is called "Value" and will draw attention to how the economic cost of conflict exacts an emotion toll from communities around the world.

Duwadi says he has been increasingly disturbed by the series of violent acts in the past year that have rent his motherland, and his adopted home, America. In earlier visits to Nepal, Duwadi had been concerned about the escalating Maoist violence, and just when he thought things couldn't get worse, the royal massacre happened in Nepal, and then the World Trade Centre bombings. In despair, this passionate pacifist is trying to explore the connections between human conflict, militarisation, poverty and despair.

Duwadi is trying to collect as many of the names of the estimated 2,000 Nepalis who have died in the past six years of Maoist violence as possible and these will be exhibited alongside the rice. Visitors will be encouraged to light oil lamps and burn incense so that the artwork itself becomes a shrine and a memorial for the souls of the dead.

On Tuesday, the dhaan will be put into jute sacks and marked with the names of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Congo and other countries torn by war, and replica rifle will be laid alongside the sacks to symbolise an end to violence.

Using dhaan for Duwadi is a metaphor for peace and regeneration, and the artist says he is inspired by the poetry of his grandfather, poet Dharani Dhar Koirala who wrote 50 years ago:

Nepal, your smiling face Would I see it, or die without This is the worry that aches my heart Towards hope or despair. Duwadi left Nepal in 1971 and did his PhD in political science from Claremont. But his heart was always in art, and he did his first show in 1978 and has exhibited regularly in the US. In 1994 he came to Nepal on a brief stint with the United Nations. He has done several exhibitions in Nepal before, including one on nagas, the serpent saviours of the water and air. "I wanted to generate an interest in the environment, and the nagas were the perfect symbol," he adds.

Does he feel the tug of home, is that why he has kept in touch with his homeland and keeps coming back? "Absolutely. This is where my roots are, this is my connection to my past, my ancestors, my being." Duwadi's art form demonstrates this symbolic link to the land: his ongoing exhibition in the Siddharth Art Gallery is called: "Earth Drawings to Digital Prints".

In the exhibits on display there, he took soil from Nepal, the United States and rubbed it on Nepali paper, scanned the result and worked on them digitally to produce colours and patterns that have a near-hypnotic effect.

In his heart of hearts, Duwadi is concerned about the global culture of violence and the effect it has on the human soul. Through art, he hopes to heal himself and others. "I started thinking about it five years ago, with the gun-related violence in the United States, and then it happened in my own country with the royal massacre, and then September 11 happened."

Visualising the Cost of Vioence
Art installation by Jyoti Duwadi
17-20 November
Inauguration: 4:30 PM on Saturday, 17 November

Digital Art 1995-2001
Jyoti Duwadi
Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited
1-26 November

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)