Seems Like A Temple City

Pen and Ink on Canson Paper
46 x 46 cm (each) including the frame

Of all the things the Newars are known for, their built environment and extensive city planning make them uniquely urbanized for inhabitants of the Himalayan foothills. What is most exciting about Newar settlement is not symmetry nor uniformity but how the matrix of adjoined houses and chowks are still interconnected with rich cultural and social heritage. Manifested in both the intangible livelihoods and in the structure of community whether through physical or social engineering, Kathmandu Valley, a long-coveted Newar gem, carried distinction and character among all Himalayan kingdoms since antiquity. But for much of Nepal’s modern history, the Newars have had to face an immense struggle to maintain their distinguished identity as a people. Dominant ethnopolitical forces continue to undermine and dismiss their vernacular singularity. Against a persistent current of misplaced economic interests, the sophisticated Newar achievements wane as the community crumbles and falls divided. Slowly but surely, all are to assimilate into a soulless economy that is generic and otherwise irreverent of refinement or accomplishment. In this series, I illustrate the city as a nexus of identity – presenting the Newar collective as a structure that connects both the physical and metaphysical in space and time. By using architecture and the city as a motif, Newar settlements are finely illustrated to invoke a sense of loss. The meditative process of erecting these gullies and communities on paper also serves as a personal navigation of memories of an old Kathmandu, that no longer mirrors the one found today. Through myth and collective expression, I outline an identity urgently at risk of extinction. Without action language may survive but it may also be the only heirloom the Newars bequeath down the generations.