Call for Participation – Imperfect Solidarities

The Feminist Memory Project | Nepal Picture Library

An inquiry into the intricate and imperfect workings of solidarity building and collective action within the feminist and women’s movements in Nepal.

How have Nepali women come together to voice protest and build solidarity against state policies, violence, tradition and culture that they no longer choose to accept? How have they gone about organizing themselves, nurturing and sustaining common purpose, intent and agency, creating social capital, strategizing, sustaining momentum, fighting intimidation and challenging power structures within institutions, on the streets, in conference rooms, on social media, and at home? What has held them together? And what has caused various efforts to fall apart? How has power, funding, leadership, self-interest, trust, and fear shaped the ruptures and dissonance?

This program is an undertaking within the on-going Feminist Memory Project at the Nepal Picture Library. It has been specially conceived as a response to an invitation to collaborate in the Curriculum of Studies into Darkness by artist Amar Kanwar. Associated to his film Such a Morning, Kanwar has initiated a series of research projects with a range of artistic, educational, and political collaborators.

With the image and the archive as central to the research framework, the program will initiate a series of explorations that will be prompted and informed by collections in Nepal Picture Library. Each exploration will offer participants a unique opportunity to engage with activists, artists, educators, development workers, policy makers and others who have shaped, participated in and made pivotal contributions to various movements and campaigns across issues and across the country. The curricular paradigm will be exploratory – and not geared towards teaching. The intent will be to create an open space for sharing, discussion, and reflection on successes as well as failures. Ultimately and throughout, participants will be encouraged to translate their research and learnings into a campaign – or campaign as they research.

The program will take place in Kathmandu through 2019 and is open to Nepali artists, researchers, activists, educators, lawyers, development professionals and anyone interested to understand and critically examine collective action and solidarity building work. Age no bar. Participants are encouraged to sign up for the full series but are also invited to participate in individual explorations. Priority will be given to individuals who wish to participate in multiple explorations.

To participate, please send us your CV and a note (maximum one page) that tells us why you would like to participate, and what you would like to get out of this experience. Please indicate the exploration/s you are signing up for. Each Exploration will be limited to 20 participants. Participants will be asked to contribute Rs. 1000 per person per exploration which will cover lunch and tea/coffee for the session days.

Please send us your information by 30th March for explorations 1-5 by email to [email protected]. Dates and details for explorations 6-12 will be announced soon.

Exploration 1
Film Screening + Artist Talk – Such a Morning by Amar Kanwar
Friday, 5th April 2019, 5:30 PM
Chhaya Center, 6th Floor, Thamel (above QFX)

The film Such a Morning is a modern parable about two people’s quiet engagement with truth. In the 85-minute film, a famous mathematician at the peak of his career unexpectedly withdraws from his life and retreats to the wilderness to live in an abandoned train carriage. Creating a zone of darkness so as to acclimatize himself before total darkness descends, the professor begins to live in a realm bereft of light. Thus starts an epic sensory journey into a new plane of emotional resonance between the self and the surrounding world. A parallel story about a woman emerges within the course of the film, providing a compelling, analogous narrative to the protagonist’s. Over time, the professor records his epiphanies and hallucinations in an “almanac of the dark”, an examination of 49 types of darkness that emerge as a series of letters.

Searching for a way to re-comprehend the difficult times we are living in, Kanwar asks “What is it that lies beyond, when all arguments are done with? How to reconfigure and respond again?” Such a Morning unlocks a metaphysical response to our contemporary reality as it navigates multiple hallucinations between speech and silence, fear and freedom, democracy and fascism.

Based originally on Kanwar’s research into the diversity of existing narrative structures in the Indian subcontinent,
Such a Morning reaches beyond place to expose the complexity of a fractious moment in history in which every truth seems to have an opposite brutal truth. As part of his film Kanwar conceived a narrative that continues beyond the film–the professor continues to write his letters–towards a research project with diverse artistic, pedagogic, metaphysical and political collaborations. These become the rubric for a continuing project, which are at the core of the series of Letters that accompany the film. The seven Letters contain texts, hand made paper and 17 film projections. The handmade paper for the Letters was made by Sherna Dastur at the Nirupama Academy of Paper, Kolkata, India.

The train coach built for the film remains in Delhi, a memorial for the teacher who refused to conform, who stepped off the tracks and wandered into the wild.

Such a Morning was edited by Sameera Jain, with cinematography by Dilip Varma and additional cinematography by Ranjan Palit. Sound recording was done by Suresh Rajamani and Julius Basaiawmoit and design by Sherna Dastur. Such a Morning premiered at Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel in 2017 and was produced with the support of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, Marian Goodman Gallery and AKFP New Delhi.

Exploration 2
Imperfect Solidarities – Introductory Session
Facilitator: Prathama Raghavan
6-7 April 2019, 10am – 4pm
Venue TBA

We live in a world where social injustice prevails. In a world surrounded by social injustice, perfect solidarity is difficult. The world and its systems pit us against each other in the name of competition, excellence, perfection, funding, loyalty, etc. The tendency to organise the world, communities and activism in binaries divides us rather than foster connection.

Using the narrative approaches, the Imperfect Solidarities work seeks to challenge these binaries, build (imperfect, momentary, flawed but useful) ‘groundless’ solidarity across these differences, deconstruct our biases, learn to listen to each other, inhabit the grey areas of discomfort and create a network of accountable allies.

Exploration 3
A history of Organizing on Sexual Violence
Facilitators: Prathama Raghavan & NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati
4-5 May 2019, 10am – 4pm
Venue TBA

What has been the history of organizing on sexual violence in Nepal and South Asia? Individuals involved in the Namita-Sunita, Sita Rai, Nirmala Pant and other campaigns will share their experiences including impact and lessons learnt. What values were driving their actions? What would they do differently in the future while holding on to the same values? What hopes did they have for these campaigns? How do they continue to work on those hopes?

Exploration 4
A History of Nepali Feminist Activism Through Collections in NPL
Facilitator: Diwas Raja KC & NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati
18-19 May 2019, 10am – 4pm
Venue TBA

What has been the history of organizing/activism/collective action around issues of property rights, citizenship, education, equal wage, community forestry, micro-finance in Nepal in the last 5-6 decades? For this discussion, we will invite key individuals/groups who have lead and participated in these various movements. What are the legacies these individuals/groups have left behind and the legacies we want to take forward? We will also reflect on intergenerational solidarity, “momentary and flawed solidarity”, “we don’t have a choice to not stand together”, and ways of surviving together post-disaster.

Exploration 5
Learning from the Natural World
Facilitators: Prathama Raghavan & NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati
8-9 June 2019, 10am – 4pm
Venue TBA

An exploration of select chapters on Friendships, Social Security, Forest Etiquette, Hibernation, Burnout and others from Peter Wohlleben’s incredible book “The Hidden Life of Trees”. Using this book and other references, we will delve into the values that nature, plants, animals, forests and oceans can teach us. There are many parallels to draw from the ecosystem of forests and the ways in which trees function to remain healthy and contribute to the well-being of their community. The interconnectedness of all forest inhabitants including fungi, bugs and animals can teach us many lessons for building community and taking care of each other. What if we learnt from other inhabitants of this planet, some of the oldest and wisest? What if trees and forests were our teachers? What would we learn? What would we do differently?

Exploration 6
Other Movements: Moments of resonance, fractures, dissonance, solidarity and coalition building
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 7
Performance and Advocacy: storytelling, stereotyping, strategies, theories and inspiration
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 8
Visuals and Advocacy: the traps, tropes and possibilities
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 9
Feminist Manifestos/ Writings: raising the flag and waving it
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 10
Feminist Funding: rethinking nature, source, decision making, power dynamics around funding
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 11
Campaign Building: personalizing and depersonalizing the discourse
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 12
Hope and Change: pushing our imaginations
Dates and venue: TBA