Nepal | November 27, 2020

Waking the dead

Himalayan News Service
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Photos: Courtesy Ashmina Ranjit

Photos: Courtesy Ashmina Ranjit


Work of an art is to “make you raise question”. Even if you don’t, it will make an impression after watching it, and raising questions becomes inevitable. This is what visual artist Ashmina Ranjit believes in. To raise questions on the current situation, she began her unusual performance.

At 11:25 am on December 9 — 81th day of Constitution promulgation — she started living with five-feet-tall fibreglass skeleton weighing seven to eight kilograms on her back. Watching people do nothing about the current hardship and not feeling the presence of the government, she realised “I should react and work as a conscious being and citizen”. So, she walked, slept, cooked, travelled…with that skeleton for the next 81 hours. She is still carrying that skeleton for an hour every day and will continue carrying it until the current situation is under control.

The skeleton symbolises death or dead.

“There are many layers conceptually,” the artist says of her performance explaining, “We all faced death due to the earthquake. We survived but we are not free from death. Like I am carrying skeleton around with me, we are carrying fear of death with us. It is beyond physical fear of death of ground shaking now. Philosophically, Nepalis’ base is not stable.”

The skeleton means the “death of system, belief and confidence” in these hours.

Ranjit makes her point by saying, “We don’t have leaders but a bunch of politicians. It is the death of the state. We can’t feel the presence of government. If it was a state, there would have been law and order in the system. There is no system, thus, black market is flaring openly.”

We have also lost belief and confidence for this system and government as per the artist. In the current situation, she opines people should raise questions and make the leaders accountable. But people are enduring the problems. She highlights, “From absolute monarchy system, we have become a republic state, but our attitude and behaviour are like that of praja (subjects) and not citizens. If we look at them now; it has been days since the blockade was imposed on us and people have been living in a bubble. Their attitude is — ‘I can survive whatever happens and wherever happens, nothing is going to touch me’. Thousands of people are queuing up for petrol in this blockade. If they were to gather and question the government and ask them to solve the problem, what will happen? But there isn’t anyone to do that.” Ranjit will reach the streets and different spots of the Valley with her skeleton stirring questions among people on the ongoing situation. She is to wake the dead through her performance.

A version of this article appears in print on December 17, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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