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An interactive visual archive of the Nepal Conflict (1996-2006) and its aftermath, organized in response to a public call for photographs

Values


A People War: Workshop

A conversation and workshop with Kunda Dixit about the Nepal civil war, photography, and the recording of loss

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Pentagram

Organizers

Aaron Levy, Natasha Jen

Contributors

Joseph Isaac, Gee Wesley

Process initiated

05/29/2013

Opens to public

05/29/2015

Time

5pm

Address

Slought
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web

http://apeoplewar.net
[Forthcoming]

Economy

0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce a Spring 2015 conversation and workshop with Kunda Dixit at Slought in Philadelphia. Dixit will address the A People War project and the process through which it has developed. Please note that this workshop has been rescheduled from March 20 to a later date in June 2015.

Dixit will speak about the trilogy of picture books he curated and edited about the Nepal conflict 1996-2006. The contents of the books (A People War, Never Again and People After War) were taken in a travelling exhibition that traveled throughout Nepal for three years from 2007-2010 and visited 45 of Nepal's 75 districts. By the end of the tour, some 600,000 people had seen the pictures. The project has become a case study in the role of photojournalism in post-conflict healing. The pictures are now housed in a permanent exhibit (Peace Museum) in Kathmandu which also serves as a documentation centre and archive for conflict-era testimonies, photographs and documents.

Over the last two years, Slought has partnered with Kunda Dixit and the Madan Puraskar Trust in Nepal to archive and assist with the development of bringing the A People War online. The goal is to create a "virtual Peace Museum" so that people all over the world will have access to its contents. The museum will primarily focus on this extraordinary collection of photographs and testimonies documenting the Nepal Conflict (1996-2006) and its aftermath. A research initiative at Slought has been established with the specific goal of finding a way to incorporate an interactive element in this visual archive of the conflict and make it available online as quickly as possible.

We welcome individuals interested in working with us to realize the research initiative and online archive. Together with Natasha Jen and designers at Pentagram, a graphic design for the interactive visual archive has now been completed. Moreover, Slought has made significant progress in organizing the thousands of images, texts, and handwritten notes that form the A People War archive. In keeping with A People War project, which was itself organized in response to a public call for photographs, Slought is pleased to announce a public call for volunteers to assist with the further development and completion of the project.

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"The 179 photographs by 80 photographers in A People War represented the impact of violence on individuals. We often talk of 'the people' in the abstract, and it has become almost meaningless. By distilling "the people" down to individuals and their families, recording their personal loss, and storing the images of the aftermath of tragedy we take photography to the lowest common denominator of private grief. This is why the pictures are so powerful: because we relate to the images at a people-to-people level, as one person to another, as one Nepali to another. But it is when we view the pictures together in an exhibition, with hundreds of our fellow-citizens, that it turns into a collective catharsis. The individual photos of grieving relatives, weeping widows, orphans too traumatised to cry, then become 'us'.

When A People War was published in December 2006 many thought it was a powerful pictorial chronicle of the conflict. However, because of the cost of producing a high quality book, its readership was limited. Which is why nepa-laya decided to take the pictures on a traveling exhibition across Nepal.

The photo exhibition tour toured the country over three months in 2007, visiting 31 districts where 350,000 people came to see it. People - students, teachers, traders, farmers, political leaders and ex-combatants - queued for hours, and once inside, they lingered over pictures, looking and re-reading captions. Then they wrote their feelings in guest books, jotting down poems, their individual experiences of the war, unburdening emotions they had kept bottled up for so long.

In Chautara the pictures were displayed amidst the ruins of the district hospital, which had been destroyed in a battle in April 2006. In Ilam the exhibition was held inside the auditorium of an orphanage in which ten blind students had cowered while a night-long battled raged around them. In Tansen the exhibition itself resembled installation art, as the pictures were arranged around the ruins of a Tansen Durbar that used to serve as the district administration office and had been completely destroyed.

The victims and participants of the conflict came to look at the pictures together, and led us to rethink victimhood altogether. We often regard victimhood as being the prerogative of non-combatants, but warriors are also victims. As they looked at the photographs, policemen and ex-guerrillas were often overcome with guilt and memories of the violence they witnessed or perpetrated. There were families of the disappeared who came to see if they could find their missing relatives among the photographs, children who had witnessed the war themselves or lived through nights of battle came to see how the war affected everyone, not just their family or their village. It wasn't the way we planned it, but what started out as a pictorial archive of the war had grown into a peace movement. And that proved the tremendous desire on the part of the Nepali people for peace and justice."

-- Kunda Dixit, from Never Again

Whether you are a Nepali citizen, taking Nepali evening language classes, a professional translator, a bilingual speaker, or simply interested in volunteering your time to help with a project about cultural memory, we need your help.

You can also support us by hosting a workshop in your school, cultural organization, cafe, or other civic spaces.

To participate or for more information, please contact us.