One specific work of art, which won the National prize in the installation category, was titled “Memories of my country”. Made by artist Rabindra Shrestha, the installation consisted of photographs of children’s umbrellas kept upside down around the puddles and ditches of Kathmandu roads. The photos were taken right after rain and the time frame ranged from night till dusk. At the center was a television that showed a short clip of what went into making of the installation and it was accompanied by Shrestha’s narration.
Shrestha claims that while shooting for this project, that started late at night and went on to early morning, he experienced a whole different life in the valley as he saw people scavenging for food after midnight and also had to go through the experience of the police searching his backpack and asking him what he was doing. At first, he explains, he feared the dead silence of the night but, over the months of working on the project, he learned to embrace it.
“My daughter was playing with the water and her umbrella at night after it rained (shown in the video) and she refused to get inside as she liked it very much. I recorded all this on my phone,” he explains adding that he liked how the darkness of the night contrasted with his daughter’s bright umbrella and also how the water from the rain reflected light onto the surrounding. Shrestha, who likes to create art with concepts, suddenly found an idea he felt was worth pursuing.
And thus, over a period of two years, Shrestha started taking pictures of children’s umbrellas (ranging from Barbie to Doraemon patterned ones). This, according to him, reflects the innocence and the memories that Nepali children leave behind as they go to foreign countries to build a better life for themselves. Moreover, the puddles and ditches on the roads show how Nepal can’t stop them from leaving as it has nothing to hold them back.
“The ditches and puddles on roads in major areas like Boudha, the airport stretch, and Baneshwor to name a few places are reflective of how Nepal lacks so much in infrastructures and opportunities that our youth have no option but to leave. And they have to leave all their memories, their parents and comfort behind in order to find their place in the world,” he explains adding that that moment with his daughter playing with the umbrella was what triggered him to think about her future in Nepal as well as the children who are growing up here now.