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An ode to resilience

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Moving A still from the exhibition.
Moving A still from the exhibition.

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

A photo exhibition celebrates the indefatigable spirit of Nepalese people.

Saddest of incidents can spur greatest of creative expression. Whether it is object d’art, poetry, prose, theatre or photographs, we often witness some extraordinary creations triggered by adversity. ‘A People War’ — photo exhibition on the ten-year long civil war that ravaged Nepal, is a case in point. The 50 images on display highlight the plight of the civilians who suffered during the conflict which began from a village in 1996 in hilly mid-western districts of Rukum and Rolpa and ended in 2006.

Photographer Muna Sharma captures an emotional Debi Sunwar after she came to know her daughter Maina Sunwar is dead. Her daughter’s was one of the many disappearances that took place in the country during the civil war. Suspected of being a Maoist, the army admitted to have detained the young girl where she died. Amongst the scores of images mounted on the wall, the photo of the school headmaster shot dead and tied to a tree, in particular, grab the viewer’s attention. “Before the war, children used to draw birds, trees but such was the effect of the war that kids started to draw helicopters,” says Kunda Dixit pointing to a picture. Dixit is editor and publisher, Nepali Times, who also co-ordinated the projected.

The photographs have been selected from the pictorial book bearing the same title published in 2006. Nepalaya, publisher of the book, released an advertisement in the papers inviting photographers — to submit pictures taken during the war. “Not everybody could afford to buy the book so we decided to put up an exhibition. The exhibition travelled to 32 venues in Nepal and was seen by 350000 people,” says Dixit who authored the book.

Nepalaya also produced a film “Frames of War” — directed by Kesang Tseten and Prem B.K. “The film has its own effect but the exhibition brought non-combatants, former Maoist rebels, army officers, former enemies together on one platform. It proved to be cathartic. There was not a single eye which wasn’t dry. It turned into a peace movement,” says Dixit.

Poignant

Besides poignant expressions that dominate the show, a couple of photographs are archival material. Like the group photograph of Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) — who was the Prime Minister of Nepal till May 25 this year, along with three other Maoist leaders who hold prominent positions in Nepal’s current cabinet. “It was found by the army lying amongst the dead after a battle in 2002. Until 2006, this was the only picture of Dahal that existed,” informs Dixit.

(The exhibition is on at IIC Annexe, Lodi Road, till July 21. Those interested can call 011-4624619431

•The exhibition has been taken to Holland and Bangladesh.

•The publishers brought out another book “Never Again” based on the testimonies written by viewers in the visitors’ books.

•Another book — a follow-up on 50 people featured in the photographs — will come out soon.

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