It is hard to say where we stand at any point in time without a reference. What most art and literary works advertently or inadvertently do is provide a context through which we can see our world and in it, ourselves. Photo Kathmandu, the first photo festival organized in Nepal by Photo.Circle in association with Shikshya Foundation Nepal, delved on the theme 'Time' where the photographs were gentle reminders of our past and our course towards modernity. The ripple of time is felt across generations and the displayed photographs managed to keep the ripple intact.
The photographs, taken by national as well international photographers, showcased a Nepal that has since then taken several tortuous turns towards modernization. Noted photographer Kevin Bubriski's 'Portraits of Nepal' documented lives of Nepalis; some photographs reflected their traditions, some reflected their perils while some just shed light on a way of life that is limited to imagination for many. Another photographer, Philip Blenkinsop's 'In Shadow of Hope' depicted lives of guerillas during the insurgency period of Nepal. The photographs not just portrayed Nepal's tumultuous past, but left one with melancholy after seeing how the trajectory of people's lives was changed by the revolution. It was a haunting reminder of Nepal's history and a lesson on what a revolution entails.
On a lighter note, Juju Bhai Dhakwa's and Sumitra Manandhar Gurung's personal collection of photos gave a glimpse into their lives. Juju Bhai Dhakhwa's photographs are but memories frozen in time, capturing portraits of his family members and members of his community engaging themselves in daily activities, festivals and rituals. The exhibition was displayed at Dhakhwa house, which had been renovated beautifully and doubled as an art gallery. Sumitra Manandhar Gurung's collection was a painting of her own vibrant outgoing life at a time when many women were still bound by stereotypes.
All of the eighteen major print exhibitions were situated in different locations within Patan, a city that in itself is a living display of old Nepali architecture. Almost every person walking through Durbar square seemed to hold on to a Photo Kathmandu map and finding their way to and from exhibits. People flocked from one exhibition to another. The festival seemed to act as a much needed post-quake impetus that fueled the enthusiasm of city dwellers and locals equally. And like seeing many faces of one god, the exhibition displayed many faces of one Nepal. A Nepal from the past, heading towards a different future and holding onto its roots all the while.