Nepal's first foreign photo festival opens in shadow of quake

Volunteers prepare an exhibit ahead of the Photo Kathmandu Exhibition in Patan on Nov 1, 2015.
Volunteers prepare an exhibit ahead of the Photo Kathmandu Exhibition in Patan on Nov 1, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

PATAN, Nepal (AFP) - Nepal's first international photo festival opened on Tuesday (Nov 3) on the streets of the quake-devastated Kathmandu Valley, with exhibits set up alongside damaged and spectacular temples and palaces.

The Photo Kathmandu festival takes visitors on a tour of the historic city of Patan, past intricately-carved statues and ancient water spouts, and chronicles Nepal's chaotic transformation from a Hindu monarchy to a secular republic.

"When the earthquake hit, so many buildings came down in Patan... (and) made us realise how important it was to display the photographs in this setting, as a reminder of why we need to preserve and rebuild it," said festival co-director Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati.

The curated walks and exhibitions, featuring the work of Nepali and international photographers, are all free, while proceeds from the sale of selected prints will go towards rebuilding Patan's architectural heritage.

Kakshapati organised several aid drives after April's massive quake that destroyed more than half a million homes and killed nearly 9,000 people.

But she was forced to overcome a slew of hurdles to set up this event, ranging from a labyrinthine local bureaucracy to a nationwide fuel shortage that raised costs and created logistical challenges.

"The fact that the festival is going ahead reflects a certain resilience to push on despite dealing with so much frustration," Kakshapati told AFP.

"After the quake, I remember thinking that when people are struggling to meet basic needs, what is the point of holding a photo festival?

"But a powerful image can do so much, you can tell a story, ask a question, touch someone... I hope people will recognise themselves in these images and leave feeling a little inspired," she said.