SAI HelpNepal is proud to announce its association with Photo Kathmandu, the first international photography festival in Nepal. The festival will run from 3-9 November 2015 and is widely attributed to the importance and rebuilding of vernacular heritage sites in the historic city of Patan. One of such sites is in the focus of the SAI HelpNepal project “Patis in Patan” that is contributing to the festival.
Patis and other heritage places have sustained damage in Nepal’s recent earthquakes, yet they are very important for the social and cultural life of the people affected, as the project shows. It is conducted by the anthropologist Prof. Christiane Brosius from Heidelberg University, the artist and curator Sujan Chitrakar, and the photographer Rajendra Shakya. Under the general theme of ‘time’, the festival presents the Nepali past through images and oral histories. This way, the past, the present and the future can be interwoven. The earthquake of 2015 can be understood as a lens on destruction, but also a focus on the constructive shaping of a future and hope for the city and its inhabitants. This is where SAI HelpNepal’s support lies.
“Patis in Patan” addresses the importance of thinking about making cities sustainable through vernacular built heritage. Possibly more than before the earthquake, more people have now become aware of the precarity of built environs, and their interdependence with social life. One of the most unique and yet sidelined sites in contemporary urban Nepal that deserves attention in this context is the pati (Newari: phalcha). There is no other space that is as public, dynamic and available for multiple use, and for a variety of social groups, as this arcaded platform. As the nodal points of Newar culture, patis have a meandering history, often undergoing many architectural and social changes. Many also have a daily rhythm that invites use by different local groups. It is a ritual-site, a site for gatherings and leisure, used as shelter, shop or storage. But it is also a site that has been closed down or off, or silently vanished. After the earthquake, it has been seemingly rediscovered as a supportive institution for shelter and social recreation, a much-needed island of momentary relief and communitarian solidarity.
The project will be part of the festival Photo Kathmandu with a curated walk including four patis. Viewers see through the eyes of local groups, of elderly senior citizens and youth, unfolding a panorama of the city’s past, present and possible future. A future that considers intangible and tangible heritage as a central element of post-earthquake Kathmandu. The project includes collaboration with local communities and students from Kathmandu University, and is conceptualised by Christiane Brosius, Sujan Chitrakar and Rajendra Shakya. Parts of the curated walk are currently worked out, and will be further researched, in the context of Brosius’ 2015 visiting fellowship at the Institute for Global European Studies, Basel University (Research Network “Europe and Global Ageing”).
Christiane Brosius holds the Chair of Visual and Media Anthropology at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies of Heidelberg University in Germany. She is also co-founder of SAI NepalHelp at the University of Heidelberg.
Sujan Chitrakar is a Kathmandu-based visual artist and curator. He is an Assistant Professor and Head of the Center for Art and Design at Kathmandu University. He was creative consultant and co-curator for a number of festivals including Photo Kathmandu 2015. Sujan’s works have been shown in solo-exhibitions and are in private collections within Nepal and abroad.
A journalist by profession, Rajendra Shakya has spent much of his career on the radio, producing programs on Newar history, culture, art and architecture, along with current affairs, for Ujyaalo 90 Network. He has also worked in print and electronic media and is an avid photographer.
The team is supported by researcher Dikshya Karki who has been associated with Brosius and Chitrakar for various projects on contemporary art in Nepal.