Art and the earthquake

Material Information

Art and the earthquake
Pande, Sophia ( Author, Primary )
Place of Publication:
The Kathmandu Post
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
© 2016, Kantipur Digital Corp


Subjects / Keywords:
Rescue and relief ( SWAY )
Disaster relief ( LCSH )
Rescues ( LCSH )
उद्धार तथा राहत ( SWAY )
Humanitarianism ( SWAY )
Humanitarianism ( LCSH )
मानवतावाद ( SWAY )
Art forms ( SWAY )
Art ( LCSH )
कला ( SWAY )
Newspaper report ( SWAY )
Graffiti ( SWAY )
Temporal Coverage:
20150425 - 20160423
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Nepal
28 x 84


General Note:
Published in: The Kathmandu Post (© 2016, Kathmandu Post) --
General Note:
एशिया -- नेपाल
General Note:
Asie -- Népal

Record Information

Source Institution:
SOAS University of London
Rights Management:
© 2016, Kathmandu Post
Resource Identifier:
SP160423A1 ( SWAY )


This item has the following downloads:

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Art and the earthquake - Saturday Features - The Kathmandu Post




Art and the earthquake

- Sophia L Panda (/author/ajphia+l+pands)

209 f »


- Apr 23, 2016-

Art can be as precise or as obtuse as you make

it, serving as a very important sig nifier and Is art important in times of disaster? This is a weighted question that will be answered differently
cultural record of real life events, or, not depending on who you ask. Close to one year after the earthquake, looking back, it is clear that everyone

mattering at all with a will to help, and was able, managed to mobilise themselves on behalf of the less fortunate; made

- possible by the incredible circumstances, you could call it luck, th at kept most of Kathm andu supplied with

(albeit patchy] power, cellular networks, the internet, and running water. Civil society was at its best, people were out in the hand est hit communities that they
were able to access, trying to make a difference.

So where does art come in when there are so many other needs to meet? Basics such as shelter, sustenance, clean water, and first aid were indeed placed
paramount, even from the many artists who flung themselves into relief efforts.

The artists Hitman Gurung and Sheelasha Rajbhandari, along with their colleagues and friends, abandoned their course work, trying to help people who were
buried by digging through rubble with their bare hands in the initial hours after the quake. Later on they were able to focus on the community in Thulo Byasi at
the northern entrance to hard hit Bhaktapur, where they created "Camp Hub" in conjunction with the community and their artist friends to create engaged art
works that spoke directly to the effects of the quake.

Sujan Chitrakar, artist, curator, and professor at Kathmandu University (KU] worked tirelessly with his ECU students and numerous other volunteers in
Bungamati, a hard hit, historically important Newar community, to create temporary shelters, rebuild classrooms, and document and create plans to preserve
and restore the medieval town that had suffered so much damage to its cultural heritage.

http: / /kathmandupos t. ekantipur. com/ news /2016-04-23/art-and- the- earthquake. htm 1


01/08/2017 Art and the earthquake - Saturday Features - The Kathmandu Post

Sudeep Balla

About a month after the quake, after scrambling to get relief to the hardest hit districts, The Yellow House group which started out as an unregistered but
crucial hub in coordinating relief work organised an informal gathering of concerned people, with artists, experts, and otherwise, who were interested in
introducing or incorporating art based therapies to affected children. Niranjan Kunwar, an educator, along with Sharareh Bajracharya and Jess Linton, the
former an arts educator, the latter an art psycho-therapist, met at this gathering. Soon after, ArtWorks was formed, and they were funded by the Shikshya
Foundation to make a trip to Ghyachchok, a hard hit Gurung village in Gorkha that had received very little aid. Kunwar's moving account of the trip and the
impacts of the three daylong arts therapy workshop conducted there are a must re ad for anyone who is interested in the role that art can play in such times.

Sheelasha Rajbhandari

http: / /kathmandupos t. ekantipur. com/ news /2016-04-23/art-and- the- earthquake. htm 1 3/7

01/08/2017 Art and the earthquake - Saturday Features - The Kathmandu Post was able to raise funding to give towards restoring the wrecked Kpaati"in Chyasal, in Patan, along with establishing an Instagramfeed for the
Nepal Photo Project (#nepalphotoproject) which allowed different photographers to upload photos in realtime. In photo, circle's founding member, Nayantara
Gurung Kakshapati's, own words, "The platform became a way to share real-time information in the immediate aftermath, that volunteers were using to
respond to, and also provided a more nuanced narrative of recovery, relief, and rebuilding to counter the narrower representations in mainstream media".

Another astonishing and heartening gesture was made by artists in Bangladesh who wanted to help their fellow artists in earthquake hit Nepal. They
contributed 90 of their art works for a fundraiser at the Athena Gallery in Dhaka, a move that resulted in bursaries for almost 31 local artists from varied
disciplines, and six-month long residencies for five artists at Bindu, Space for the Arts, and the Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre (KCAC). Two
simultaneous exhibitions at the Nepal Arts Council and the Siddhartha Art Gallery showcased the works that were made possible from this support. Jeewan
Suwal, a painter from Bhaktapur who also participated in Camp Hub's community based art works, and lost his home and his father to the earthquake, was
one of the many people who were allowed some respite as a result of this international donation to support the arts at such a time.

Sudeep Balla

These examples are just a few of the many endeavours by the artistic community to engage with and provide support to those desperately in need of relief,
comfort, and both concrete physical and emotional support.

Any artist will tell you that creating art is like second nature to them. Most artists have an extraordinary facility to be able to express themselves, hence their
chosen profession. That ability to express what is going on inside of you is not a quality that comes easily to most people. Art can be used as a way to allow
difficult emotions to manifest outwardly into cathartic creations, but more often than not, in a country where art is not incorporated into the school
curriculum, the idea of trying to create, or use, the arts in a time of disaster, even if it is to help people express their trauma can sit uncomfortably in the face of
so much suffering and misery which begs for more "useful" forms of aid.

http: / /kathmandupos t. ekantipur. com/ news /2016-04-23/art-and- the- earthquake. htm 1



Art and the earthquake - Saturday Features - The Kathmandu Post

Lavkkant CTiaudhary

The successes of Camp Hub, the Rebuild Bungamati initiative, and ArtWorks' foray into arts therapy in remote Gorkha lies in the fact that all involved were
exceptionally sensitive to community needs, helping to assess the situation first before gently introducing aspects of art-making and art therapy into the very
real relief efforts that these groups were contributing to simultaneously. Nepal Photo Project's Instagram feed was crucial for alternative documentation, the
donations from Dhaka, which could have become a token symbol, were instead utilised to provide real, necessary monetary support and emotional relief.
Above all, art was made secondary to human need, it was used a means rather than an end in itself.

Art can be both vitally necessary and sometimes extraneous. In dire times, art (it could be writing, painting, drawing, screaming in an act of performance) can
be an outlet for grief, pain, and in the case of our own particular disaster, the trauma from seeing homes crumble, an insecurity that can truly destabilise the
psyche. However, as Hitman points out in his Camp Hub statement, art must make its own case for validity in such times, a sentiment echoed by one of the co-
founders of the Shikshya Foundation who initially hesitated at the possible usefulness of art in such times.

http: / /kathmandupos t. ekantipur. com/ news /2016-04-23/art-and- the- earthquake. htm 1



Art and the earthquake - Saturday Features - The Kathmandu Post


Ml IHf-VAW lirriAMEB DIE i

When it comes to things like dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake such qualified hesitation is justified, and sensitivity, accessibility, and
sincerity must also be accompanied by coordination, professionalism, and sound methodology with defined processes and outcomes in mind, especially when
it comes to creating art, or conducting art therapy.

That being said, there are not many ways to deal with the enormity of such events. While the government struggled to release relief materials from the airport,
children, who are always among the most emotionally vulnerable, found themselves homeless and without any system or structure of support. Temporary
Learning Centres and Child Friendly Spaces became a crucial way to provide these affected groups with a measure of security, just as playing and drawing,
both activities used in arts therapy, became the only possible way to keep traumatised children busy.

Working for an organisation that deals with children myself, our programmes team, seeing the substantial benefits, quickly shifted into arts and play based
trauma counseling workshops for teachers in Sindhupalchowk, a move that when first introduced was viewed with incredulity. Later, after their training was
complete, a teacher expressed his gratitude at being taught these skills. Simply, but poignantly, he said that there was no way he could expect either himself or
the children he taught to sit still and turn to a certain page in a text book; drawing and expressing (verbally or otherwise) was the only way that any of them
could function at that point in time.

http: / /kathmandupos t. ekantipur. com/ news /2016-04-23/art-and- the- earthquake. htm 1



Art and the earthquake - Saturday Features - The Kathmandu Post


Yellow House gathering that led to Artworks* Photo courtesy: Niranjan Kunivar

From these specific case studies, and other measurable outcomes, it is apparent that art does have relevance during the hardest of times. As stated before, art
can be necessary or superfluous, but it can also be made easily accessible or difficult. It is therefore crucial to understand that art can be used as a powerful
method and tool. Art can be as precise or as obtuse as you make it, serving as a very important signifier and cultural record of real life events, or, not mattering
at all. In the end the relevance of art is up to the artists, curators, arts educators, and the artistic community who must decide how they will wield their chosen
craft. The responsibility of art makers is as large as the burden they take oil In short, art is as important as you make it.

(Pande is a regular columnistfor The Kathmandu Post; she is the Head of Strategic Planning & Communications at Childreach Nepal)

Published: 23-04-2016 09:30

The Kathmandu Pozt > Saturday Features (/category/saturday-features) > Sophia L Pande [/author/sophia+l+pande)


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