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Water colours

Monday, September 23rd, 2013
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Jean Philippe works with images and Serge Verliat writes words. The photographer has pooled his talent with an anthropologist and geographer for a unique exhibition to look at the importance of water in the Himalaya that is on at the Alliance Francaise till 8 October.

Verliat, 59, had visited Nepal and India often for his anthropological research, and was fascinated by the way farmers cultivated crops and eked out a living on even the most impossibly steep slopes. He was struck by how they used and conserved the water, and its role in their daily lives and in festivals and religious rituals. “It is a great lesson in courage and zest for life, and I have always wanted to share this experience, to pay tribute to the splendour of these mountains,” says Verliat.

He met 72-year-old photographer Jean Philippe and the two decided to work together on a photographic documentation of the waters of the Himalaya and celebrate its fragility and beauty. Philippe’s exquisite images, perfectly framed and composed on a 6×6 Hasselblad borders on the sublime. Since water is central to the subcontinent’s culture and religion, Verliat and Philippe look at the important role of holy rivers and lakes in Hindu rituals and festivals. “Rivers and lakes for Hindus are evidence of the generosity of the gods, the most striking manifestation of their compassion,” explains Verliat, “the purity of the water is the incarnation of divine perfection. It allows you to regain the original purity that is sullied by daily life.”

alliance francais

Shishapangma (8012 m), Tibet

The exhibition features 32 images of waters, from Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Ladakh and the Indo-Gangetic plains of India and Nepal, and the duo have also made a film about Himalayan rivers. Not everything is pretty, there are images that show how Nepal and India have mismanaged their holy rivers, the garbage, sewage and filth. There are pictures of Mansarovar lake, which has mythical importance in Hinduism, the funeral ghats along rivers in India, and women taking dips during the Chhat festival in Nepal.

Rivers are therefore an essential part of birth, death, rebirth and the cleansing of the soul.

Kunda Dixit

‘Water, Himalayan Treasure’
Photo Exhibition
Till 8 October
Alliance Francaise Kathmandu
Banshi Ghat Marga, Teku
01 4241163 / 4242832
www.alliancefrancaise.org.np

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