Nepal | July 17, 2019

Stories of storytellers

Surendra Tandukar

KATHMANDU: Grandmothers are the best storytellers and their special way of saying those stories is a childhood treat for everyone. But, who is there to tell their story? ‘Hamra Hajurama: Our Grandmothers’ — a story-telling project initiated by and supported by Embassy of Denmark tells the stories of our grandmothers.
A book — of the same title — compiling the stories of grandmothers and an exhibition was launched by Danish Ambassador Finn Thilsted at Nepal Art Council on December 18.
The exhibition showcases enlarged versions of photos and texts from the book. The wrinkled faces in those life sized photos and the accompanying texts reveal the story of the best storytellers.
Fifteen writers and photographers involved in Hamra Hajurama fanned out across the country since May 2009, seeking voices and encountering a fascinating range of women with much to tell — not just tales of sorrow and injustice, but also ones of survival, dreams and hopes.
“Had I known that they would show my photos this way, I would have worn better clothes,” shared 75-year-old Lila Maya Rai pointing to her photo that showed her in torn clothes. Grandmother of two, Rai, who hails from Muga, Dhankuta said, “I had a life full of suffering and here I have shared my sad but true story.
However, she added, “I am happy that people will know something about my life through this book.”
“Mero aamabaley malai school dress kinidiyana ra guniyo lagayera school jaana malai ekdamai laaj lagyo (My parents didn’t buy me school dress and I felt ashamed of going to school in traditional clothes)”— reads an excerpt from ‘Kamalari Practice: The law is not enough’. It tells that Suntali Chaudhary was compelled to work as Kamalari from the age of 11 by her father citing that she had no interest in studies. It also reveals that her husband is still working as Kamaiya though the Kamaiyas are said to have been freed almost a decade ago.
Radhika Pradhan, Khadga Kumari Thapa, Uma Devi Pradhan and Nusrat Banu were some grandmothers present in the exhibition.
The book features 12 grandmothers from 11 districts of Nepal. In doing so it has also been able to shed light on individual and collective histories and cultural practices of Nepalis from different ethnicity, class and geography along with some 68 photographs.
The exhibition is on till
December 25.

A version of this article appears in print on December 19, 2009 of The Himalayan Times.

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