Saturday, March 28, 2015

from under the prayer flags

wind and wings

indigo thread

I have watched Tsewang grow from a quiet boy who liked to draw, into a confident, skilled artist. He is a member of the original group I started teaching five years ago, a person Pedro and I are lucky to have in our lives, so we were honoured when Tsewang invited us to his auntie's house for tea.

She was an impressive woman with eyes that carried strength, and beautifully wrinkled hands that deftly flicked prayer beads in a never-ending cycle, mantras escaping with each movement of her lips. She welcomed us into the living room, motioning to vividly patterned cushions for us to sit upon. While we were treated to endless cups of delicious butter tea and homemade khapse, a rhythmic clacking made its way from the courtyard into the pale blue room.

One of her sisters was weaving cloth on a handmade loom that was bought all the way from their village in the mountains.

As she smoothly slid the shuttle of indigo thread back and forth, I wondered about all the series of events that had to take place in order to bring each of us here to this courtyard, and how this moment would pass so quickly and insignificantly in the grand scheme of things, yet become a treasure of mine to revisit in memory.

Monday, March 16, 2015

now, sit real still

I was sketching the gate at Shechen Monastery while Pedro was chasing warblers in the nearby trees, when a group of young monks heaving cases of soda paused to watch me draw. Most peeked, smiled bashfully, and carried on with lugging the soda, but I was eventually left with two boys who decided to sit with me.

After some silence and more smiles, the boys began to whisper at each other fiercely. Suddenly, one of them cheekily blurted out: "He wants you to draw him!"

This earned him a little punch in the arm from his blushing friend. I abandoned my lousy sketch for a fresh white page, selected a suitable pencil and told the blusher to sit real still. His name was Jamyang Tashi, and he was from Mustang.

Jamyang sat with such dignity for a young lad, though there was mischief in his sideways glance as he peered at the lines that were adding up to become his face. An older monk passed by and gave his approval— a grin, and a "same same". The boys were pleased with this, and Jamyang lit up when I showed him his finished portrait. I told him I would photocopy the drawing and bring it back to him, but I wasn't sure if he fully understood what I meant. The next day I returned with the copy and tracked him down to the classrooms at the back of the monastery. He appeared in the window of a very dark room— I could barely see him, except for a set of gleaming white teeth behind the window grate. I passed him the photocopy, which he received with both hands, thanked me, and skipped off.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

a wall in thamel

the moments that change your life

It was in this dark little room that my life changed, five years ago. I remember that first art class as though it were yesterday— the room full of shy kids eager to draw, who scarcely uttered a word for the first few days. We had copier paper and pencils, the erasers were cut into four pieces so everyone could have their own, and we drew whatever was around— ink bottles, keys, each other.

It's funny how you never know what moment will change your life until time has settled in. I never knew that the kids in front of me would become so dear to me that they would be my family, and that I would return to Nepal year after year.

Our group grew larger, and we moved to the cafeteria balcony. Some students got scholarships to study abroad, some returned to their villages to do service, some went to college, and some got jobs. Pedro and I got married. It's amazing, all the things that can happen in five years.

It's amazing how kids turn into young adults when you're not looking!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

those familiar eyes

fly away

And so I bring this blog closer to the present day, to the last week of February to be exact, when I flew away to a place that is dear to my heart.

end fgm

"The END FGM Mural is dedicated to Aissato Djalo and to all women, especially to those survivors of Female Genital Mutilation. An APF project- Associaçao para o Planeamento da Família (Family Planning Association) with the support of the city hall of Lisbon and GAU (Urban Art Gallery)."

This beautiful work of art was painted by Fidel Évora and Tamara Alves in association with APF, to help raise awareness in protest of Female Genital Mutilation. I caught it in passing while Pedro and I were walking through Largo Intendente in Lisbon, and feel that my photos do not do it justice. Stick2Target, a website dedicated to documenting urban art in Portugal, has much better images of the mural here.

anatomy, art, and religion

Thank you to those Renaissance artists who brought together science and art— dissecting human beings and studying their anatomy, learning how a muscle contracts, how a bone shapes a shadow, how a body can twist and bend... How to turn a flat, emotionless saint into a person wrought with fear, ecstasy, and devotion— so real, you swear you could see a throbbing in their neck...