Stepping out of the classroom

A key goal for Photo Kathmandu, right from its inception in 2015, has been to create a lasting engagement with the communities within which it operates. An important aspect of this ethos has been to ensure the widest possible access to its programming. It is why Photo Kathmandu has eschewed the traditional gallery format and utilizes public spaces within the historic city of Patan, its gallis, hitis, and bahals – alleyways, public water wells, and courtyards to mount its exhibitions, and why a majority of its programming is free of charge to the public. An equally important strand of the ethos is to also foster a deep engagement with the content of its exhibitions and the social, political, and cultural issues that these works explore.

We believe in the transformative power of art, not only for individuals but also for communities. Therefore, Photo Kathmandu attempts to create a space for conversations between the city and its public, its historical legacies and its aspirations. It seeks to challenge conventional attitudes about the efficacy of “artistic interventions” and organizes platforms and programs that create in-depth engagement with local audiences and special interest groups on socio-political topics of local relevance. Its Arts & Education program is one of the cornerstones of that effort.

The Arts & Education Program seeks to inspire people to explore the possibilities in visual literacy; orient educators and young people towards the exhibitions so that their visits can be immersive as well as informative; create focused and meaningful learning experiences through guided tours and seminars; and provide opportunities for young people to use the photo exhibitions to reflect on their own art practices and produce relevant work.

The curatorial framework of the festival this year – dealing with issues of gender, patriarchy, power, sexuality and identity – are deeply complex topics, the intersection of which affects not only the world we we inhabit but also how we engage with that world. To foster deeper understanding and engender empathy, we need to continually and regularly create conversations and dialogues around pre-existing socio-political systems as well as educational practices. The Arts & Education program has been designed with this in mind.

To achieve it goals, the program has been organized around several components.

Pre-scheduled Guided Tours of 1.5 to 2 hours with school groups are planned for 18 days over the duration of the festival. During the tours, groups of students grade 11 and up as well as groups of teachers led by our educators will make use of Literacy Kits to engage with exhibitions. By identifying and discussing key elements presented in the works, participating in imaginative exercises, and connecting elements to their own socio-cultural milieu, participants will utilize the literacy kits to reflect on the larger implications of the works. The kits are designed to be stand alone and can be used by teachers independently of the guided tours.

In an effort to foster engagement beyond the festival and its venues, the Arts & Education program also holds Seminars to orient teachers, administrators, and related professionals with the festival. The seminars provide teachers with the tools to introduce and discuss thematic issues raised by the exhibitions, make connections to existing curricula, and foster critical thinking in classrooms. In addition to teachers and school groups, the program also works with facilitators from various organizations and equips them to guide their own focus groups within their own professional settings.

To engage participants even more deeply with the issues raised by the exhibits and provide an extended experience with the photography festival, several Workshops will be designed in collaboration with Nepali artists working in diverse spheres and practices such as theatre, multimedia and writing. When possible, artists and curators of specific photo exhibitions will also be present.

The Arts & Education program is one of the most important components of Photo Kathmandu – its impact extending beyond the venues as well as the duration of the festival. This influence is even more significant in light of the fact that Nepali students in public as well as many private schools receive no arts education. As a result most Nepali students are deprived of literacy in one of the most potent forms of self expression. It is why this program is so close to our heart and why we have launched a crowdfunding campaign to provide it with all the resources it needs to be a huge success. The funds raised will be used to

  • develop curricula and teaching/learning material
  • visit classrooms to introduce students to the exhibitions before they visit the exhibitions
  • bring students and teachers to visit the exhibitions and take them on interactive guided tours
  • go back into classrooms to work with students to debrief and reflect on what they learned
  • workshop with teachers to introduce them to arts education and out-of-class learning methods

Photo Kathmandu believes that photography is a powerful tool to tell stories, discuss important social issues, and inspire people. We at Photo Kathmandu see the upcoming edition as an exciting opportunity to engage with the Nepali public, and encourage them – especially young people – to learn about and reflect on our own society and the world. It is with this view that the festival has invested such a large amount of time and energy into expanding its Arts & Education program.