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.

Please email to participate or signup for mailing list for program updates. Dates and details for explorations 8-12 will be announced soon.

Upcoming explorations:

Imperfect Solidarities: Exploration 7
Memory, Memorials and Memorialization

Facilitators: Prathama Raghavan & NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati
Speakers: Amar Kanwar, Leonhard Emmerling, Ruth Marsden, Ramesh Adhikari, Jaya Luitel, Kunda Dixit
Wednesday & Thursday | 28 & 29 August 2019
10am – 5pm (Kindly arrive by 9:45am)
Venue: Yalamaya Kendra, Patan Dhoka

Suggested contribution: Rs. 500 per day/person (covers lunch + tea/cookies)

This exploration around memory, memorials and memorialization seeks to initiate conversations on the need for a broader imagination in terms of who, what, why and how we want to remember, the complexities of pain and the dangers of absolute positions. How can we find a way to deal with different versions of history? How can we deal with different groups of people pushing for their own versions?

In the spirit of Imperfect Solidarities, we wish to think about whether it is possible to create participatory, collaborative and collective processes, spaces and sites to memorialize, and what all this says about not only our past, but also our future, and about who we want to say we are. The exploration will seek inspiration from projects and processes from around the world and also invite local actors who are trying to find their own private as well as public ways memorialize.

Exploration 8
Shame, stigma and humiliation
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 9
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 10
Intergenerational conversations
Dates and venue: TBA

Exploration 11
Dates and venue: TBA

Previous explorations:

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: HQ, Arun Thapa Chowk, Jhamsikhel

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
18 May 2019, 10am – 4pm
Venue: HQ, Arun Thapa Chowk, Jhamsikhel

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
25 May 2019, 10am – 4pm
Venue: HQ, Arun Thapa Chowk, Jhamsikhel

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
Facilitator: Prathama Raghavan

Saturday, 15 June 2019, 10am – 5pm
Venue: Dhulikhel (Yes! We thought it would be really nice to get out in nature for this exploration.) 

Suggested contribution Rs. 500 (this covers lunch and transport) 

*We will have a van departing from, Jhamsikhel at 8:30am or we can meet directly in Dulikhel at 9:30. Meeting point: 28 Kilometer Chowk – where you turn right towards Kathmandu University. Rain plan TBA on 14th June. Please mention if you need transport when you sign up.

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? This exploration is based on select chapters on Friendships, Social Security, Forest Etiquette, Hibernation, Burnout and others from Peter Wohlleben’s incredible book “The Hidden Life of Trees”. What can the interconnectedness of all forest inhabitants teach us about building community and taking care of each other?

This exploration is also an opportunity for us to spend time together, collectively, in nature  : )

Exploration 6
Intersectionality and Solidarity Building
Facilitators: Prathama Raghavan & NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati

Presenter: Shradha Ghale

Sunday, 16 June 2019, 10am – 5pm
Venue: HQ, Arun Thapa Chowk, Jhamsikhel

Suggested contribution Rs. 500 (this covers lunch)

Many communities in Nepal have historically lived in forest areas and depended on forests and rivers for their physical and cultural survival. Today some of these groups are among the poorest and most disadvantaged sections of the population. The process of environmental dispossession that began with the formation of the Nepali state continues to this day. As we try to grapple with the threat of climate change and protect our remaining land, forests and rivers, it is important to ask who all are paying the price for conservation and who all are being let off the hook. Using some case studies from Nepal’s national parks, we will hear from Shradha Ghale about her work in the past few years, examining the dominant discourse of conservation, how it affects those living at the margins of society – women, indigenous groups and Dalits, and what kinds of new intersectional solidarities we might need to imagine to grapple with some of these issues together.

Shradha Ghale has written reports, essays and reviews for various media outlets in Nepal and India, including The Kathmandu Post, The Record and The Wire. In recent years, her work focused on the uneven impact of the 2015 earthquake, the problems with the 2015 Constitution, and the impact of mega development and conservation on marginalized communities. Her first novel The Wayward Daughter: A Kathmandu Story was published in 2018 by Speaking Tiger, Delhi.

Below are links to two of Shradha’s articles;
The first in the eight-part series on conservation that she wrote for The Kathmandu Post last year;
An essay that discusses issues presented in a Nepali book written by two Chitwan activists;