Locals oppose an addition to the Changu Narayan museum gallery
The inauguration of an important new gallery addition to the Living Traditions Museum of Changu Narayan was disrupted on 6 September by disgruntled locals who said they were not consulted.
The gallery, called ‘Now and Then since 464 AD’ would have complemented the UNESCO World Heritage site which has relics of some of the oldest settlements in Kathmandu Valley.
James Gambrione and Judith Chase, who curated the section on the repoussé, was explaining how the gallery came about when he was interrupted by slogan-shouting locals. American Ambassador Peter Bode who was supposed to inaugurate the gallery returned back from Bhaktapur.
Jim Danisch, the artist who designed the museum said it all started when about 20 “very hot tempered” men disturbed the preparations earlier in the morning. Coming from the nearby villages of Shagdaha, Halchap and Narayantar, they asked the organisers to postpone the inauguration.
“They were confused about their claims,” Danisch told Nepali Times, “but I understood they were complaining that they had not been participating in the conception of the museum.”
The situation is now calmer as the lawyers of the Living Traditions Museum negotiated with the locals to have the inauguration on 13 September, it is not clear what the exact demands of the locals are. One complaint was that the Living Traditions Museum didn’t have the proper permissions, but Danisch said the museum had proper permits from the Department of Archaeology and UNESCO.
Jay, 29, who owns a souvenir shop near the temple said he understands the anger of the villagers around: “They feel neglected and don’t see the museum adding an advantage to the villages.”
But Ashim Bhatta, 32, who has a gallery of thangka paintings near the entrance of Changu Narayan Temple was really disappointed by the incident.
“I have known Judith Chase for a long time and I know she has invited all the community around to get involved in the project from the beginning,” says Bhatta, “sometimes, people just want to show the little power they have.”
The Living Traditions Museum holds dozens of pieces that were collected by Judith Chase, while she was trekking all over Nepal between 1975 and 1985. “It’s sad, because the museum is real touristic opportunity for the people of the community,” says Jim Danisch. “We’ll wait for the discussion of next Saturday to see how things evolve.”
Return of the past Lawrence Miller