Women in Nepal are treated as ‘second class’ citizens, but in almost every corner of the capital city, one can find statues of goddesses worshipped by one and all. My project’s title intends to show the same contrast. Doors, simply put, are openings to possibilities, or closings that safeguard you. The symbolism used here is to make women realize and actualize that they are their own doors to limitless possibilities. In this series I haven’t just carved goddesses on doors, but also gods, because I believe that regardless of being of any gender, one can be their own savior.
“I have always used junk to expose my emotions, as I am fascinated with the concept of death and immortality. This time around, I have used broken doors left behind after the devastation caused by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. I saw so much of what I loved about Bhaktapur torn down and brought to the ground. This is my attempt to preserve a bit of the old city in my own way.”
Meena Kayastha’sfirst exhibit, ‘Lyrics from the Junkyard’, was applauded by the media and art fraternity alike, and received widespread coverage.The artist’s new exhibit, ‘Divine Debris’,is based on the Navadurga goddesses, handcrafted and painted on doors found in the debris left behind in the city of Bhaktapur after the earthquake.The exhibition was opened by Dr. Arzu Rana Deuba on November 27 at Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited, and is scheduled till January 11, 2017.
Debris is discarded, thrown away, or sold for a cheap price, no matter the purpose and life it served. In the exhibition, Meena has used creativity as a form of storytelling in the simplest terms possible—to believe in the power that lies within. She saw the power that lies in things disregarded by society, and used damaged doors as the determination to dethrone the delinquents who stand against women empowerment.
The new exhibit showcases a series of works created over the year, following the 2015 earthquake. Meena gives meaning to what was once discarded. She puts life back in doors from Bhaktapur that had once seen the glory of Newari craftsmanship.The doors that lay lifeless, once belonged to ancient houses of Bhaktapur. The exhibit also features a number of deities built with leftover scrap metal from the junk yard, a line of Meena’s signature style.
The story originates in the ancient city of Bhaktapur. The corners of this city were filled with storytellers and magical tales that made people believe in something bigger than themselves. The audience would gather around them and be awestruck by the heroic deeds of the characters. After the sun kissed the mountains, and cups of tea were not enough to keep people warm, they would slowly wander home. While most people went home entertained and relaxed, one little girl would take inspiration from every new story she heard. She would keep the characters alive in her heart. Her favorite story among all was of the Navadurga, the nine divines who protected her own Bhaktapur. The story meant the most to her,since not only was her favorite place on earth safe because of the goddesses, but also that the saviors were women.
Her grandma cast magic spells to heal wounds she suffered when she fell down. Her brother thought she was silly for believing that Granny could heal wounds, but she believed in magical spells. She would argue with him, if the Navadurgas could keep Bhaktapur safe, why couldn’t Granny also be her savior? The whole idea of heroines saving the day was a fantasy she desperately wanted in her reality. Women in her world were considered a gift to be given to someone else’s home. She did not want to grow up, only to be given away. She wanted to grow and become a goddess. To become a goddess, she had to first meet one, so she decided she would continue to look for them everywhere in the city of Bhaktapur.
Just like the charm of the stories, she did not know where the energy for the search came from, or where it was going. She just knew she was not going to stop, even if this search lasted a lifetime.