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Art for social change

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017
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Ang Tsherin Sherpa (1)

All photos: Siddhartha Art Foundation

Nepal has long been known as the source, transit and destination country for people subjected to trafficking. An estimated 23,000 people have been trafficked from Nepal since the 2015 earthquake. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than 100,000 children are sold for sex each year in the US.

An ongoing exhibition, ‘The True Stories Project’ organized by Siddhartha Art Gallery in collaboration with Art Works for Change (AWFC) and sponsored by the US Embassy seeks to highlight the stories of the women and children whose lives have been uprooted by the cruel practice.

“When Randy Rosenberg the chief curator of AWFC reached out to us, we were very excited to collaborate as the plight of women has been a focal point of ours. Many would prefer to sweep the crimes committed against women, children under the carpet but we need to put it out in the open,” says Sangeeta Thapa of Siddhartha Art Foundation.

Hitman Gurung True Stories (1)

As a part of the project, nine women and girls from Shakti Samuha and Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) learned how to tell their stories visually in different art styles under the guidance of art therapist Lajja Dixit and Sattya Media Arts Collaborative. The three pieces that tell the true stories of these women and children are exhibited along with the works of five Nepali and seven international artists.

The True Stories project, the preparation of which began a year ago, is a visual journey through video, art and photographs exploring the issues of exploitation of women, the manifestation of resilience and the definition of empowerment. The artworks have been divided into four categories: Objectification, Mythology, Exploitation, Empowerment.

Sujan Chitrakar True Stories

Sujan Chitrakar uses dolls encased in a glass box to depict the hypocrisy of the society which on one hand preaches about goddesses and on the other objectifies women as sex objects. Marilyn Minter captures the movements of a female mouth licking candy and cake decorations in a sensual voyeuristic video. Ang Tserin Sherpa merges the traditional with contemporary as a small boy stands in front of a disturbing mandala, symbolising the exploitation of young boys. A naked woman sews and stitches the scraps of clothings around her as she embarks on a journey of self healing in Gabriela Morawetz’s video. Nabin Baral’s powerful photos highlight the plight of women as they are branded a witch. Sheelasha Rajbhandari explores the identity of girls after marriage in her installation and Hitman Gurung addresses the vulnerability and insecurity of a Tharu woman in her own country.

The exhibition doesn’t paint those trafficked as mere victims but as survivors by involving them as storytellers and illustrators of their lives. By using art and photographs as a medium, the exhibiton brings the issue of trafficking and violence against women out of research papers, and seminars to the doorstep of public. It draws attention to a heinous crime and initiates a discussion on a subject  that is either considered too normal because it is so widespread or kept completely under wraps.

Says Thapa, “The power of visual language is being used as a tool to highlight or educate viewers on this issue – many visitors including school children have the opportunity to understand the issue. Our next project will be making four murals in the city that once again address these issues.”

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One Response to “Art for social change”

  1. Patricia Quinn on Says:

    Thank you for offering art therapy to these women and men, showing its usefulness in trauma work, and for bringing this enormous, tragic trafficking problem to the attention of so many. Pat Quinn MS, LCAT, ATR-BC

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