Dolakha Album: A short term curated community homestay art residency was a short-term residency curated by visual artist Kailash K Shrestha of Artudio. It was hosted in Gairimudi, Dolakha between 3 – 12 May, 2016. The primary goal of the platform was to integrate artistic process and creations into the context of the setting. Installation, new media and multimedia artists were selected by the curator to travel to the village, where they conducted research and created works to reflect their understanding of the complex realities of life in rural Nepal, post-earthquakes of 2015. While no thematic restrictions were levied, artists were limited to material found in the community. Further, each artist was hosted by a community resident affected by the earthquake and strategic encounters with the community were facilitated under the supervision of the curator.
Gairimudi, an inspiriting village perched atop of a wooded hillock of Dolakha, comprises of nine wards. It is located between Khanikhola river to its north and the village of Virkot along the southern lower belt of the hill. Ethnically diverse, the community represents people of Newar, Sherpa, Magar, Chhetri, Damai, Kami, Sarki denominations. The locality boasts of great natural beauty and cultural sites such as the Kaileshwor temple and the newly discovered Karkale cave. Gairimudi is home to some 4500 inhabitants and 900 houses. It is famous for its rich deposits of red clay.
PRAN COMMUNITY ART CENTER
Pran Community Art Center is a collaborative space dedicated to creating exchanges with native, national and international communities in Gairimudi VDC, Dolakha. The Center is Artudio’s vision for a long-term, post-disaster effort to realize a safe haven for children, where they can explore ideas and art forms outside their immediate academic curriculum. The center has equal participants from all member of the community for cultural celebrations, community meetings and workshops. Currently, the Center resides in a temporary shelter where children and adults benefit from various activities (art, music, performance, book reading, cultural activities) held every Saturday morning and holidays.
CHILDREN’S ART WORKSHOP
A day during the residency was reserved for activities with children of Gairimudi. Artists held several interactions and encounters with over 100 school children during the day. Some recorded music about their surrounding, others performed, and some even created land art in open areas. The results of the day were then shared at the community exhibition on the final day of the Dolakha Album.
The devastating earthquake of 25 April and 12 May brought unprecedented calamity and destruction to Dolakha, epicenter of the second quake. Together the quakes destroyed most houses of the district. Artudio began its post-disaster efforts with Healing Through Art immediately in the wake of the first earthquake. This initiative made its way through Kathmandu, Kavre, Nuwakot to Gairimudi carrying out a range of activities for children along the way. When the program finally arrived in Gairimudi, after the second quake, not a single house remained standing.
Artudio’s efforts in Gairimudi started on the heels of immediate rescue and relief operations. Instantly it revealed many positive changes amongst traumatized children and community members. Inspired by these outcomes, Artudio conceived of a longer term plan to continue engaging the community with the arts. Pran Art Center was thus born.
Today, the center operates out of a temporary shed but with a committed institutional vision and support from Artudio’s network of professional artists as well as volunteers, Pran Art Center aims to jumpstart a new cultural movement. Similar to the haat bazars that are commonplace across Nepal, we envision a different kind of rural gathering – a space where ideas, skills, creativity and happiness are exchanged.
Based on this vision, the Dolakha Album: Homestay Art Residency was envisioned as a foundational attempt to break away from the perception of art for the privileged or for urban settings. It became a testing ground for artists to redefine art as a contextual object, one that uniformly adapts to the everyday of all settings. Besides inspiring the community of Gairimudi through their artistic processes and creations, encounters facilitated by the Artudio catalyzed a distinguished approach to contextualizing art to the host’s reception. Additionally, the framework was mindful in delivering some relief directly to families economically, psychologically and physically affected by the quakes.
As might be expected, extensive co-operation amongst art institutions, artists and managers is necessary to grant permanence to the center’s mission. Fortunately, the motivations and impact are obvious – the center has immense potential to pioneer a new Nepali approach to collaborations and co-creation. Artudio believes that with enough support it could reach national and international audiences through the center and add a new chapter to Nepali and world art history.
Community Curated Exhibition in Gairimudi, Dolakha curated by visual artist Kailash K Shrestha
Art has yet to penetrate rural Nepal. When most art projects are concentrated in Kathmandu Valley, Dolakha Album becomes a novel attempt to conduct a community-based residency program far away from the urban hubs.
Although, rural Nepal is still reserved for photographs and paintings of its landscape have been romanticized for decades, exhaustive artistic interventions have never transpired in such environments. Dolkha Album is then the beginning of a more engaging reflection of a village – Gairimudi.
This project could have been only afforded by the commitment of artists to immerse themselves into the culture, lifestyle, atmosphere and spirit of the locality. Thus, eligible artists were identified keeping in mind the challenge of working outside one’s comfort zone and of experimenting with limited resources. Conventional as well as new media artists were selectively invited in an effort to provide a more nurturing climate of co-creation. The community was thus involved in the process of, and discourse on, ‘creating’ and ‘expressing’ in all its diversity. The use of locally available resources and accessible technologies and tools furthered that integration of creating into the community.
Making art in a place like Gairimudi, which is slowly losing its traditional identity and essence, is in itself an achievement. By observing the complex realities of the village, and documenting its present context artists have lent a hand in preserving its contemporary history for years to come. In return, artists were undoubtedly reciprocated with a better understanding of contexts that shape their own practice.
Artists bring fresh thoughts, perspectives to the subject they confront. Through this dialogue they are able to engage and inspire everyone from children to the elderly. Artudio is certain that by championing such platforms more constructive impact can be realized for all people involved. For generosity and reflection is the true measure of an artist’s success and is the goal of art.
Kailash K Shrestha
Curated Exhibition curated by visual artist Kailash K Shrestha in Artudio, Kathmandu
Kailash K Shrestha
Sujan Dangol, New Media Artists
Surendra Maharjan, Printmaking Artist
Sandhya Silwal, Visual Artist
Rajan Shrestha, Sound based Multi Media Artist
Abhimanyu Dixit, Film Artist
Chabi Bahadur Shrestha, Local Artisan
Santosh Prashad Rimal
Rupesh Man Singh
Karma Tshering Gurung
Editing and Translation
Yugal Bhakta Shrestha
Venue: Artudio, Chhauni Hospital Road, Swoyambhu
Opening Night: Friday 12th August, 2016
Opening Time: 6:00 PM
Closing Ceremony: Saturday, 20th Aug, 2016
The Residency was supported by Siddhartha Art Foundation Education Initiatives & Buddha Kumari Foundation