Tharu. Chhetri. Danuwar. Gurung. Lohar. Newar. The Nepali people belong to 102 ethnicities, castes and other groups and speak 92 living languages. Amidst sweeping political changes, it has become very important to define oneself along ethnic lines, to show where loyalties lie.
There has been injustice tied to differences. The fight for rights and recognition is genuine and important. But how can the people of Nepal safeguard themselves from shortsighted, power-hungry identity politics? Will drawing federal state lines along ethnicity really ensure better livelihoods and brighter prospects for future generations?
What will it mean to be Nepali in the new Federal Being Nepali Text & photographs by NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati Democratic Republic of Nepal? With these portraits, I attempt to highlight the diversity of the Nepali people by concentrating on each individual’s unique facial features. I strip each individual bare of all stereotyped ethnic identifiers, such as clothing and jewellery. By making the portraits as uniform as possible, I attempt to find similarities amidst differences.
How different are the people of Nepal – or any of us? And how alike? How much does it matter?
This story was produced during a ‘masterclass’ with the Danish photographer Mads Nissen, organised by the photo.circle, a platform for photography based in Kathmandu. It has been published as a book, The Constant Change: 12 Photo Stories from Nepal.