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photo.circle had in mind to organise Photo Kathmandu for a while when the earthquake shook the country on 25 April 2015. Of course, the team set out to help the affected people and communities around and beyond the Kathmandu Valley and temporarily abandoned all festival plans. When the State, the iNGOs and the UN got themselves organised and volunteer based humanitarian help became obsolete, photo.circle went back to what it does best and decided to take up the challenge of organising Photo Kathmandu in just over 4 months.
The spirit of helping out fellow citizens stayed alive though. Since the communities of the old city of Patan were so amazingly welcoming and enthusiastic about the festival, photo.circle wanted to give back and thus pledged to organise a fundraiser to help rebuild at least one heritage site that would most probably not be on the radar of big donors.
The fundraiser was to be a Limited Edition Print Sale of images of Nepal from the Nepal Picture Library and from the Peace Corps Nepal Photo History Project. The collection on sale was soon topped up with contemporary work by photo.circle’s friends.
The more time the team spent in Patan preparing the festival the more it became clear that Lam Pati in Chyasal should be the heritage site to help rebuild. Lam Pati, before its destruction, was an anchor in the social and religious tissues of the community. It’s where the elders gathered to discuss community issues, where religious leaders read the stars from to set important dates, where decisions would be taken, where bajans (religious music) would be held.
Where does the money come from and where does it go?
The online sales of Limited Edition Prints combined with a few generous online donations allowed us to raise 12,000 USD at the end of October 2015. The sale was made possible by the generous help of Kazi Studios (website set up) and DHL who kindly gave us very preferential rates on the shipping of the prints.
During Photo Kathmandu’s official opening on 3 November 2015, the festival team handed over a cheque of 12,000 USD to representatives of Kwelachhi Tol Sudhar Samiti.
Community based organisation Kwelachhi Tol Sudhar Samiti will use the funds to buy building materials. The labour (masons, wood carvers, stone carvers, etc) will be provided by the community itself. A Project Advisor with an engineering background will be appointed to help the community use proper techniques and to make sure the new pati will be earthquake proof.
What is a pati? (by Christiane Brosius)
One of the most distinct and yet often overseen rich – and lived – architectural elements of Newari intangible and tangible heritage is the phalcha (Newari) or pati (Nepali). It is an arcaded platform with multiple functions for social gatherings, inviting elderly people to spend their leisure time sitting and chatting, men of all ages to play cards, read newspapers or deposit temporarily loads, children to play. Patis can be used for religious purposes in a neighbourhood, such as playing bhajans (religious songs) in the mornings and evenings of particular days, and some selected ones become crucial for the distribution of ritual food during the massive religious chariot processions (e.g. Rato Matsyendranath). Once a new chariot is constructed, fragments of the old ones are places in front of yet again selected patis and worshipped.
Patis also reflect the tension-loaded contestations of space in booming cities such as Patan and Kathmandu: They are converted into shops with doors, are encroached upon. In some cases, the patis are used by street vendors to sell their goods, often against a small rent. They are used as temporary shelters in the night by homeless people and street dogs. Patis have a daily rhythm, throughout which they change their quality and relevance. They are public places, albeit often owned by a private person or a local community. The pati, thus, is a central element of Newar culture, and – we argue – a possible future for inclusive cities and local memories to be stored, and further nurtured. It is also a nodal point of a locality’s public activities and mobilities as it is related to a whole set of other practices.