January, the very first month of the year, has brought forth many changes to my thought processes. Few weeks back, I received an email regarding a course titled “Reflections on Self and Society”.
This course was designed to make us familiar with the Nepalese society, art and creativity. I have always been enthusiastic when it comes to learning something new and different. Having attended the session on reading, writing and thinking critically, I made up my mind to join this one too.
My first experience on day one was very interesting. On reading the text Nepalipan, my perception of the elements I considered to be a Nepali has changed. I realized that my understanding of ‘Nepalipan’ may have been quite limited and superficial, based mostly on a few facts, myths and historical tales. For example, describing Nepal as the ‘Land of Bir Gorkhalis’. However, the text was a reminder that Nepal is not only the land of Gorkhalis. Nepal is a country made up of numerous cultures, ethnicities and religions; it’s not just theHimalayas that represent the country but also the Terai and the hills. Likewise, the use of the terms ‘dhakatopi’, ‘hami nepali’ , ‘daju bhai’ and ‘didi bahini’ show that we’re still describing Nepal through the eyes of previous generations.
Things have started to change with the change in politics and government. The recent Madhes strike is a result of the unfair distribution of rights that was printed in the constitution a long time back. People are mainly concerned with what they have as a citizen of Nepal and are not as careful or critical while expressing their Nepalipan .It’s time that we unravel ourselves from the long used terms and ideas of being a Nepali. The sense of belonging should be reflected by the way we talk, act, follow, and moreover express ourselves as prideful Nepalis.
The second class was quite different than the first one. The main idea for the session centered on art, its background and female Nepalese artists . I had no interest in aesthetics which is why it was a bit of a challenging task to understand what it meant to be an artist. But while listening to some of my classmates and the instructor, I’ve understood that art is not only concerned with paintings and drawings. Art can exist in any form, be it language, music or culture. Ashmina Ranjit, an activist and a motivator who was also mentioned in the text, “An Act of Differencing: Contemporary Nepali Women Artists”, shared her experiences as a performance artist who focuses on feminism. I, being a female, had never questioned my identity, my ethics and values with the precision that Ms.Ashmina had asked herself and the society. The conservative patriarchal attitude that prevails in Nepalese society could be a factor that limits women from getting ahead in life. That was a theme that Ashmina Ranjit has been working with. One should respect feminism;after all women are creators.
All the session till now have been distinct from each other. The first one had more patriotic thoughts and the second one was inclined towards feminism and art in Nepal. “On Nepalipan” has a strong commentary on the current affairs that has been occurring as a result of the older ones and I completely acknowledge them. Similarly, I agree with the second article to some extent. Raising questions in the society, changing thoughts on feminism can be very tough. The way my family thinks differs from the rest of the families in the country. It is praiseworthy that female artists are trying their best to bring changes. However, if I were to be involved in similar projects, I would not be able to convince my family or the society, even in a rhetorical way. The beliefs that our forefathers presented to every generation is deeply rooted in my society and one needs to work really hard to remove that from the mind that’s already set with thoughts. Art may be a medium to step into someone else’s shoe and observe the world but practically, I do not think that it is the best way possible.