Feminist Memory Project PHASE I: Telling lives / showing selves through photographs by Agastaya Thapa / ALKAZI FOUNDATION

Kathmandu | 1961 Prem Kumari Tamang of Nuwakot and Lal Maya Tamang of Dhading put in Dillibazar Prison for their opposition of King Mahendra’s coup d’état.Shanta Shrestha Collection/Nepal Picture Library

“The explosive and often subversive power of photography has served many political and social movements, and of late, the quiet historical force of the photograph has been well understood and channelised by scholars, practitioners and cultural initiatives committed to the recuperation and re-inscription of women’s history all over the world. Photography has had an important role to play in the history of the women’s movement in Nepal, in bearing witness to innumerable stories eclipsed, forgotten or tucked away in the remote, dust-swathed, occluded reaches of the past. Recently the power of the photograph to activate or trigger memories of important objects, people and events came in the form of a small, blemished, crinkled, black-and-white image. Sontag declares that photographs ‘furnish instant history, instant sociology, instant participation’[1] – and this rare, old, weathered photograph, taken at the Dillibazar Prison in Kathmandu in 1961, draws us at once into its aura, suggesting a powerful story of resistance and resilience. It captures the defiant faces of two young women grasping their prison bars as they squarely face the camera; a guard stationed to keep watch over them is also present, staring into the lens. These incarcerated women would be identified as Prem Kumari Tamang of Nuwakot and Lal Maya Tamang of Dhading, arrested for their opposition to the 1960 coup d’etat by King Mahendra (1920-1972).[2]”

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