Dolakha Album: The Gairimudi canvas

August 26, 2016 , by Shakeel Gavioli-Akilagun, Leave your thoughts
Dolakha Album: The Gairimudi canvas » My Dreams Mag
The Dolakha Album Exhibition was held in the Artudio Center for Visual Arts; a series of rooms in an unassuming crayola building on Chhauni Hospital Road, Swoyambhu. From the outside, the structure holds few hints of the nature of the exhibition within; a Banksy-esque graffiti adjacent to the building seems to show a witch doctor beating a drum, and the words ‘Dolakha Album’ appear stenciled in white beneath the graphic of an open book. Upon closer inspection however, bamboo is woven around posts in the typical style, and descending the stairs to the gallery mud from the Gairimudi village covers the walls.


The exhibition that opened on August 12 for the next nine days represented a concerted effort to produce meaningful art through a synergy of modern media and traditional Nepalese culture. Curated by Kailash Shrestha and co-curated by Nischal Oli, the pieces on display were product of a weeklong art residency hosted in Gairimudi, Dolakha. The residency brought together five nationally and internationally renowned Nepalese artists, and in the words of Kailash sought to “decentralize art from the urban centers”.

The village of Gairimudi was among the worst hit by the April 2015 earthquake. The artists were hosted by members of the community in the temporary shelters that presently serve as their homes. All external art materials were strictly prohibited, and the artists were challenged to draw inspiration from the geographic and ethnographic particularities of their surroundings. The residency saw the community actively engaged in the artistic process. Artists were able to draw on the post-earthquake experiences of community, and share in the knowledge of experts on the region. Particularly, the construction of a community art centre, the local youth’s “long term project”, acted as a forum for interactions between the artists and locals.

The exhibition featured (among others) film artists, new media artists, printmaking artists, and local artisan Chabi Bahadur Shrestha who produced the bamboo weave at the gallery’s entrance.
Visual artist Sandhya Silwal drew her inspiration from elderly members of the Gairimudi community. Her installation consisted of a series of seven carvings cut into dried bamboo leaves. The leaves themselves were no taller than 30 centimeters, yet when illuminated from behind with a small LED light projected images of Gairimudi elderly onto three large walls. The detail emanating from such small structures was striking. The imposing nature of the projected images, couple with the underlying fragility of the bamboo sculptures, was very much representative of the psychological strains brought by the 2015 earthquake.

Another participating artist, Rajan Shrestha is a contemporary multimedia artist with a background in electronic music. His audio-visual installation best typified the mixture of modern and traditional art forms which flowed through the Dolakha Album Exhibition. The work consisted of short minimal movement videos of women in Gairimudi, projected over a grey static background. The audio component was formed by a track in which atmospheric music performed by members of the Damai cast was overlaid with Rajan’s own electronic music. The combination worked well, and overall the installation illustrated how modern techniques (such as electronic sound production) can be used together with generations old art forms to conjure powerful images in the observer’s mind.

Surendra Maharjan’s most striking piece for the exhibition was made in Gairimudi itself. Surendra’s aim was to create an artwork representative of the struggles faced by the community after the earthquake, while at the same time showing how these difficulties could be overcome by the community’s coming together. His piece consisted of a large white circle drawn onto the earth. At the centre of the circle was a bucket of water, and surrounding it were smoldering ashes. Surendra’s work points to the difficulties faced by the community in accessing water. He explained that his artwork was “simply a small representation of life and death meaning to say that water is the most important part of our life without water life is not possible”. The original work of course could not be moved to Kathmandu, but photos of Surendra’s piece were on display in the Hospital Road.

Other artists present at the exhibition include the film artist Abhimanyu Dixit, and the new media artist Sujan Dongol.

Kailash Shrestha described how in the coming years the Album Exhibition will move to new locations, with new artists and the aim of bringing art to yet another rural community. In addition to the Dolakha Album project, Artudio have been at the forefront of community-artist interactions in Nepal. They run a weekly workshop for children in Kathmandu called Little Picassos.

The Dolakha Album Exhibition exhibition marks the inception of a bold new strand of modern Nepalese art; one in which art is accessible to the community: a connection with grassroots values heightens the artwork itself. The exhibition will hopefully function as a springboard for other similar projects.

Words by Shakeel Gavioli-Akilagun

Photo courtesy: Artudio.net

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Categorised in: Arts

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