Print Edition - 2015-05-12  |  Earthquake Relief

Restoring an age-old village

- Nhooja Tuladhar, Kathmandu
Restoring an age-old village

May 11, 2015-

The architectural beauty of Bungamati, an ancient village within the Karyabinayak Municipality in Lalitpur District, was ravaged in the Great Quake. Now, fine art students and teachers of Kathmandu University have gotten together to help the community build temporary shelters that will last them till they are able to rebuild their homes.

“After the earthquake, we got together to figure out what we can do to help others out,” says Sagar Manandhar, artist and faculty at Kathmandu University Center for Art and Design (KUart) in Hattiban. “We went around surveying areas and upon reaching Bungamati, we thought we could concentrate on the area and help the community.”

Although Bungamati did not lose a lot of lives, more than 80 percent of the houses in the village were destroyed. People were living in makeshift tents set up in front of the rubbles that were once traditional newar houses.

Manandhar says that the students and the faculty from the college wanted to help out in the most effective way, so they created groups of students for various jobs.

“We divided the students into groups so that everyone would be involved and nobody would be overworked,” he says. “The students will also be getting their programme credits for the work they do here.”

The students, currently volunteering in the area, are divided into research, infographics, documentation, construction, outreach, sanitation and information groups. The research group has been documenting information regarding the historical and cultural significance of the area as well as collecting statistics on the number of people and houses in the area. The infographics group collects information and compiles them into understandable graphics and texts. The construction group has been building bamboo-frame houses and toilets, while the sanitation group has been taking care of the waste that is produced in the area, separating degradable and non-degradable material. The outreach group has been working with the children of the community and have been engaging them in art activities.

KUart has been building two types of shelters in the area. One is a semi-circular, cave-like structure created out of a bamboo frame and tin sheets.

“We decided to construct this because it could be executed in a very short time,” says Shreejan Shrestha, an ex-student who has been volunteering in the construction project, pointing at the tin cave. “Besides, they are cheap to build. One can be constructed for about Rs 8,000.”

The other shelters have gabled roofing and are being plastered with clay. Frameworks for five quarters have already been constructed since they started six days ago. The group plans on spending one month in the area and wants to see more collaboration with the locals.

“When we started, people [the locals] were a bit confused as to what we were doing. But since three days ago, they have been lending a hand,” says Manandhar. “Now, they tell us that we do not have to do everything and that they want to help complete the quarters.”

On Sunday, the locals were paving the shelters with plastic and bricks and were also providing the volunteers with cooked instant noodles. Children were running around the area wearing paper crowns, holding origami guns in their hands. A magazine-collage mural done on one of the houses reads: We Will Rise.

“We are now starting mural projects around the area. We will be working with images of the local children. We want to depict them helping out,” says Prabal Bikram Shah, another graduate. The murals, according to Shah, will feature text written by the children. The attempt is to rehabilitate the locals, especially the young, who are still in trauma after the quake.

“The children still run around saying another quake has hit them, when they hear loud sounds,” says Manandhar.

After the month-long project, even if the group will not be working on the ground, they intend to carry out more research work in order to reconstruct the village whist still retaining its original essence.

“Bungamati is a part of a very old civilisation. We want to help people reconstruct the area following traditionally accepted tecniques and aesthetics,” says Manandhar. 

Published: 12-05-2015 09:29

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