When I first arrived in Nepal, I knew very little about its rich culture. In front of me was the work more focused on political activities. Then suddenly appeared Challenge in Kathmandu, where I had the opportunity to watch folk dance show. As a reporter-photographer, I realized that there is something I have to do, and started an in-depth interest in the Nepali national costumes. Gradually roads took me to the NEFIN (Nepali Federation of Indigenous Nationalities) and to other communities. There also I summarize information about existing national groups, whose numbers after the Census in 2001 was 114 Caste and Ethnic Groups. Opened up a wide field of work and the project, ” National Costumes of Nepal ” started in September 2010.
To collect all the cast, ethnic and minority groups, I was able to do in Kathmandu. I found collectors who, for a certain amount offered to photograph their collections. However, following intensive discussions, I declined the offer. Owners had rather poor knowledge in ethnography, and was unable to prove the authenticity of the costume of a particular ethnic group. Another criterion that I could not accept (and I do not regret) was, model group from Kathmandu Valley, with different height, skin color and other physical characteristics which did not fit to any of mountain ethnic specific features. Also offered costumes did not fit to those specific ethnic groups from southern region of Nepal, where the human body are taller, and the skin color is darker.
It is important to reflect so, that ethnic group’s physical characteristics match their language, clothing and other cultural characteristics. Thus creating a clean picture of, existing group’s national costume and cultural identity.
Almost one year, I traveled almost the whole of Nepal. From the Eastern region, which to me seemed richer in culture, to the Far-western regions, where, contrary to my expectations, it tried to pull me in the cultural market. The southern region’s commercial life is not comparable with the mountain region’s peaceful atmosphere, Its hospitality and colorful multi-cultural environment. I was able not only to enjoy a variety of multi-cultural, social and political life, but also come up with an equally diverse climate change. These differences in all its glory, I photographed and typed in my book, “Well, Nepali Smile”
In the first period of project, I have summarized the information about the forty-five Caste / ethnic and minority groups, which cover more Nepal’s eastern and western regions. Work is continuing on to the next edition,…
see you soon!
After a five year break, we continue the project’s “National Costumes, Nepal”, – second period. In the second period, the job went better, since working in the first period I founded a lot of good communication with communities. However, I must say, in the first period, I summarize any ethnic group, because I did not have any. Now I have to do the filtering works, and start sort out the group what I have.
However, work has remained more interesting. It is more co-ordinated from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as well as NEFIN. I have a chance to show the first edition of the book, therewith, people perceive the project more seriously. Much less to me comes across a curious cases, where the models come to do photograph with jeans and Adidas sports shoes and aggressively insist, that here, it is their national costume. I have to bear a great responsibility to shoot the costumes. By working with many communities, I have witnessed that the person(s) in charge, are rather poorly oriented in its own Caste / group’s anthropology.
Also, a lot of controversy arose about Caste / Ethnic and minority groups, and its costume’s names. Everyone wants to see his/hers photographs published in the book. To get there, I must set the high criteria and give instructions before the shooting. Working with minority groups, especially in the southern districts of Nepal, their costumes reminiscent rather uniform shape. The differences can be seen only in colors. Most minority groups’ existence is ignored, and no one wants to care about them. I do not maintain that position, however, I am proud that I have the opportunity to meet with them and, to present the world with their culture.
If you apply to one of the community to receive information, you will receive a statement that there are 104 and 125 Caste / Ethnic groups in Nepal, Census 2001 and 2011 respectively. Emphasizing attention to the minority groups, their number is far higher. I dare to say, that Nepal has more than two hundred Caste / Ethnic groups and subgroups. For reasons of clarity, it is interesting to know that, the ethnic group like the Tharu, have more than ten sub-groups, the same holds true for the Gurung, Sherpa and other groups whose total number hardly ever we will know.
see you in Nepal, 2018