Print Edition - 2017-07-05  |  Life & Style

Mani Lama’s visions of Kathmandu

  • The photographer returns after a decade-long hiatus with the exhibit, Image of the City

Jul 5, 2017-

In a bustling street in Kwalkhu, Patan is Yala Mandala—an artisan village comprising a gallery, a café and a handicraft workshop. Boasting restored Newar architecture, this new arts hub focuses on preserving culture and heritage through various events, shows and community activities. 

On Monday, Yala Mandala along with Kathmandu Triennale kicked off an exhibition that features photographs by veteran photographer Mani Lama. Dubbed Image of the City, the 13-day exhibition features 30 cultural images that date back to late 1970s, capturing the lives of the people of the Valley in black and white. 

Lama, who has made a comeback with the exhibit after a decade-long hiatus, is one of the most celebrated photographers in the country. He is best recognised for his photobook The Himalayan Kingdom, and the project Postcards of Nepal.

Speaking to the Post about his latest exhibition, Lama says, “It had been a while since my images were on display for the public to see. It had also been a while since the last time black-and-white cultural photos came into the artistic radar. Thankfully, Kathmandu Triennale came on board and this has been the perfect project.” 

Lama believes that black-and-white photos come with their own charm. “Unlike colour photos, they don’t discolour the message. These photos don’t age, they remain crisp even after decades,” he shares. Referring to the collaboration with the curator of the exhibit, Sangeeta Thapa of Siddhartha Art Gallery, Lama adds, “We wanted to restore the value of black-and-white pictures and the entire setting had to be impeccable—we two sat down for days and selected my images meticulously.”  

Each of the images that deck the walls of Yala Mandala has its own story to tell. Out of the 30 images on display, Lama distinctly remembers clicking various pictures of the Manandhar family amid fanfare and a fair bit of chaos during a puja in the late 1970’s. The image, shows the entire family doing a special puja in Lagankhel. “That particular image still brings a certain joy to me—it is rich in culture, ritual and heritage. This picture perfectly encapsulates what drew me towards cultural photography,” Lama says. 

Lama further extracts a memory from the 70s, where he captured a peculiar sight of a woman sitting on a stool with an curious technological equipment laying next to her with a short line below— ‘Learn about your future through this electronic machine.’ “The equipment was a fortune teller!” exclaims Lama, “The fortune teller box was something unheard of during those days in the Valley—people found it compelling and queued up in droves to learn about their future from a tape recorder. They charged five rupees and it was quite an expense at the time.”

“These images make me nostalgic and bring a deep satisfaction of having had captured these memories, now archived for posterity. I imagine a lot of the people who visit the show will walk away with the same feelings” the photographer says. 

Image of the City will run until July 15. 

Published: 05-07-2017 08:29

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