Two years ago this week, Nepal was devastated by a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Another followed a few weeks later, leaving people even more helpless. Few of us can forget the shocking images of houses collapsed, and people and their belongings buried in the rubble; of centuries-old temples being reduced to dust as the ground shook.
The South Asia Institute responded quickly. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster it founded the "Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund Heidelberg" (or more succinctly, SAI Help Nepal) to provide support for communities in need. Drawing on their familiarity with the country, researchers and faculty members of the SAI worked voluntarily together with coordinators on the ground. Since then around twenty short- and long-term projects have been focusing on humanitarian relief, children's education, and the reconstruction of architectural heritage.
The most recent result to come out of this campaign is "Breaking Views," a book co-authored by Christiane Brosius and Sanjeev Maharjan. It delves into the question how artists perceive everyday life after a catastrophe. What meaning does art have in the context of an earthquake, and what can it do? The book brings together the expertise of artists, curators, an art historian, and an anthropologist to offer a set of perspectives that bear witness as much to friction and fragility as to perseverance and resilience. It is testimony to how young artists in Nepal have responded to social and urban change, and how the earthquake in particular inspired creative responses to help others. The book was launched at Tangalwood Hotel during the Kathmandu International Art Festival, also called the Kathmandu Triennale, in March 2017.
"Breaking Views," co-authored by Christiane
Brosius and Sanjeev Maharjan, is published by Himalbooks, 2017.
Christiane Brosius during the book launch at
Tangalwood Hotel in Kathmandu. - Photo by Rajendra Shakya
Further, a seventeenth-century public rest house (pati) in a neighborhood of Patan, which collapsed during the earthquake, was rebuilt and handed over to the community. Reconstruction work was carried out with financial assistance from the Barbara and Wilfried Mohr Foundation, Germany. The dismantling of the structural remains of the pati began in August 2016, and the rebuilding, under the guidance of architect Padma Sundar Maharjan, was completed in March 2017. The pati now will again be a significant meeting place for the local Newar community.
The reconstructed pati in Patan. - Photo by Christiane
Local musicians are
performing during the handing over ceremony in March 2017. - Photo by Padma
Reconstruction of the Char Narayan Temple also progressed speedily. After carpenters removed rotted wooden parts and replaced the damaged sections with new timber, woodcarvers skillfully restored carving details. Finally, stonemasons excavated the foundation around pillars and repaved the foundation with bricks bound with mud mortar.
Today many talk of how the earthquake brought an end to life as they knew it. But they also describe it as a beginning, filled with new hopes. At the same time, government distribution of earthquake reconstruction grants for private houses has been slow, and entire communities are still waiting for support from state bodies. That is why we now feel obliged to raise awareness that people in Nepal still need your help. Please do consider donating again.
Click on the link to learn about our past and ongoing projects, and the details of our donation account.
Nadine Plachta, with Christiane Brosius and Axel Michael, Manik and Ritu Bajracharya, Niels Gutschow, Rajan Khatiwoda, Roberta Mandoki, Marcus Nüsser, and Davide Torri.