What a great experience it was be invited by the International Wood Culture Society to participate in another collaborative sculpture project. Three years ago I travelled to China, and then this year I was fortunate enough to get the chance to visit Nepal.
What made it particularly special was getting to spend the first two weeks of the trip in the centre of Bhaktapur, a beautiful town about 13km east of Kathmandu. Despite all the devastating damage from the earthquake last year it is still an incredible place to be. It is filled with amazing temples, intriguing alleyways, mountain vistas and friendly people. My hotel room looked out over Durbar Square, one of three in the Kathmandu valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This was just a couple of minutes walk to Vidyarthi Niketan School where we were working.
Our team of 19 artists (14 international and 5 local) started with a day trip to the ancient Hindu temple of Changu Narayan, Swayambhunath (commonly known as the monkey temple) and Durbar Square in Kathmandu to get inspiration. The next day during we come together again to begin brainstorming about what we will create as a team during our time in Nepal. It soon becomes clear that we would all like to create something for the school that we are working at. It is a school for underprivileged children and they had very little to play on and so everyone quickly agreed that it would be great to build them an interactive sculpture.
After a couple of days the decision is made that the sculpture made here would not be exhibited at World Wood Day. As the design progresses the form of the sculpture meant that it would have a backbone of wire holding it together which would have to be attached to sturdy end posts cemented into the ground making it impossible to move. But there was another project waiting for the team so that wasn’t a problem. All of the team and many artists from around the world had brought and sent wooden carved bricks and it was up to us to incorporate them into another sculpture that would be exhibited at the main venue in Kathmandu. Within six and a half days, with basic tools and power only on at random times through the day, two big structures for the school were being built, carved and assembled, and the brick project had also been started.
After two great weeks in Bhaktapur, sadly we had to relocate to Kathmandu to an area with noise, pollution and little charm. Here all the carver, turners, and musicians came together to celebrate World Wood Day on the 21st of March. We pushed hard to finish the Brick project so that the other participants would be able to see the finished sculpture, and spot any bricks they had created. A highlight for me was seeing the Turan ensemble – a Kazakh folk music band created in 2008 by several students of the Kazakh National Conservatory. Using ancient wooden instruments and wearing ancient Kazakh costumes they were very impressive!
It was absolutely amazing what our group achieved in such a short time. There was a varied selection of skills between us all which I think made for a great team. It was a real pleasure to work with such a friendly and diverse group, and the hard work and commitment of our two leaders Jacques Vesery and Cillian O’Suilleabhain made for a wonderful experience.