This year’s Photo Kathmandu has a unique multi-chapter exhibition titled The Public Life of Women: A Feminist Memory Project which displays archival images collected by Nepal Picture Library showcasing Nepali women.
Exhibited in the open at Patan Darbar Square, the pictures show photographs of Nepali women gradually moving beyond the confines of the household to public life. There are women breaking away from social norms and being involved in street demonstrations, taking on professional jobs, and becoming public figures.
“It took us six months to curate his exhibition on the history of the women’s struggle in Nepal, and it will continue even after Photo Kathmandu,” says festival organiser Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati. “We have had overwhelming response, not just from families that made archival photographs available, but also from visitors in Patan.”
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The first part of the Feminist Memory Project is titled ‘Women of the People’ seeks to create a visual archive of women’s movements in Nepal through collected photographs, other documents and oral testimonies from around Nepal. The women are seen at key moments in Nepal’s history, profiling female pioneers of the democratic struggle and human rights.
Many visitors are moved by the images of Rashmi Rajya Laxmi Shah who committed suicide in full bridal wear after husband was killed during the anti-monarchy revolt in 1962. Many of these are unknown and unnamed personalities from the past who have remained in the shadows because of a male-dominated historiography.
The second part is ‘Stepping out into the World’ displayed in Dhaugal which showcases Nepali women on trips abroad, wearing saris and carrying quaint handbags. ‘Reading Under the Candlelight’ explores experiences of women in public education.
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Patan’s Rashika Maharjan sees the exhibits every day on her way to school, and says: “The images are powerful, and seeing them every day in a public space drives home the important role Nepali women have played in our history.”
Nepal Picture Library, a photographic archive that has contributed to the study of Nepali photography and to explore the issues of memory, identity and history.
The Public Life of Women: A Feminist Memory Project
Photo Kathmandu 2018