Tomorrow e open our 15th Art@Tings exhibition at Tings Kathmandu.
This post is about why art is important when you decide to live in another culture.
In 2008 we decided to move from Copenhagen to Kathmandu.
You don’t just do that without planning. So we did a lot of research and was prepared when we arrived. And after the first 3 months we knew enough about Kathmandu to make us star up our business. We had an idea about in which part of town we wanted to start up Tings, we had friends who could tell us about how it was to live here as foreigners, we knew about costs of living, we had an OK insight in the Hindu culture, we knew where we could practice our Buddhism, we had become regulars at Lazimpat Gallery Cafe & Jazz Upstairs and were slowly getting something that looked like a social life.
We have read a lot of books about Nepal.
Mostly written by foreigners but also the few we could get by Nepalese writers.
One of the books we read was Manjushree Thapa’s The Tutor of History. About daily life in Kathmandu during the Maoists. It was also in 2009 we read Chirag Bangdel’s The Mist Around The Stupa that came out that year and also was about daily life – but from a completely other perspective.
I think of them almost every time I walk around in Kathmandu or pass through the villages.
When I walk down Kantipath and turn right towards Asan I always look up to see the cafe on the roof top like the Tutor in Manjushree’s book does.
And yesterday when we had tea in a little tea shop in Daman I recognized all the faces around me from Manjushree’s novel where they were sipping tea in the cafe that plays a central part in her novel – he cafe where all her key characters share their frustrations, stories, opinions etc. .
Or when I see a Western Union (or any of the other remittance companies) signs I can’t help wondering if all the money Nepal receives from citizens abroad are spend as intended. Like the Monkey Money from Chirag’s book.
Or when I pass by one of the many small temples in the streets I smile when I think about all the people that spend their whole life looking after them. Another situations Chirag describes so well in his collection of Short Stories: Mist Around The Stupa.
The reason why I mention these two writers.
After reading hundreds of Guide Books, newspapers, travel blogs etc, after spending hours talking with Nepalese and foreign friends about Nepal, and after visiting hundreds of temples, monasteries and historical sites, we believe we know everything.
But the strange thing is that all the situations we recognize and remember everyday arise from completely other sources: From Novels, poetry, music, paintings and all other aspects of Art we have enjoyed in our life in Kathmandu.
A few months ago we got a present – we met MZN Shrawan and his sculptures.
Living as a foreigner in Nepal for almost 7 years we have giving up finding a new Manjushree or a new Chirag. The chaos and disasters that have surrounded us – especially the last 12 months – have made us blind.
So until we met Shrawan we didn’t expect to find another Mist or another Tutor.
But after sitting with him at home surrounded by his sculptures of Frogs hearing him talking about how he got inspired by the legend of Manjushree who emptied the valley from water and how the frogs from a children’s fable rose from the dried out lake and became humans – after that we been gifted with a completely new set of stories that enrich our daily life
So now – when we we pass by Swayambu or Kirtirpur, when we read an occasional newspaper about human stupidity or when we see all the musicians passing by in the wedding parades these days we smile and think: Oh – isn’t it here Manjushree cut the whole? and Wasn’t this one of Shrawan’s frogs?
Agree we really don’t need these stories. But its nice to have something that makes our daily life a little bit better.
So thank you Shrawan for that.
And thank you for letting us show you Frogs.
The exhibition opens tomorrow.