Uunka Katha : An Art Aid Nepal Project

What makes a hero? What qualities does she need to embody? Are all heroes the same? Do we have any heroines in our personal lives?

With our second installation of Art Aid Nepal, we wanted kids to deconstruct the idea of femininity, heroism and to discuss the lives of Nepali women who have made a difference in their own lives along with the lives of people around them. We also wanted them to recognise and share the women who are heroes in their own lives.

Our Uunka Katha project was conducted in four schools around the Kathmandu valley : Padma Kanya Vidyashram Secondary School (Dillibazaar), Shree Bal-byabasayi Secondary School (Siphal) , Nandi Higher Secondary School (Naxal) and Madrasa Islamiya School (Ghantaghar). Unlike our previous workshop, these sessions included both girls and boys. (We strongly believe that boys need to be included and participating in the conversation and activities related to feminism. Feminism is about equality after all!)

For this project, we worked with six different artists to bring out a collection of stories called “Uunka Katha” about nine real-life Nepali heroines who have shaped Nepali history. These were women who have struggled and brought about a change to not only in their lives, but to others in their community and to the nation as well. They also break free from our stereotypical ideas of femininity and heroism.

We wanted children to know about these women, acknowledge their struggles and their accomplishments and inspire to become change-makers themselves in an increasingly uncertain future.

A working copy of the book was distributed to nearly a 100 students from the four schools. Taking examples from the women and their stories in the book, we were able to have a fruitful discussion with the students about what it takes to be a ‘hero’ and a ‘heroine’ (hint: beauty and physical ability are not necessary) and if there were any differences between a hero or a heroine (hint : nope!). In groups of two or three, the students then made a presentation about a heroine from the book to share with their classmates.

The students were then asked to share three of their own personal heroines and make a collage depicting one of them. A majority of them made their mother, others their aunts, sisters or friend. They shared their personal collage with the rest of the class.

Taking inspiration from the book and the student’s collages, three mural artists outlined a mural in each school. The children painted in these mural. For most of the students, this was the first time they had held a paintbrush!

At the end of the project, spread over eight sessions, we ended up with countless collages, four beautiful murals in each of the schools and super happy kids!

We will be holding an exhibition soon to showcase the works of the children and formally launch Uunka Katha. We can’t wait for the books to hit the market!

Art Aid Nepal is an all women team compromising of artists, scientists, makers and educators. We deliver Art-based STEM workshops in public schools. We are super-proud that our Uunka Katha team, with the artists, muralists and instructors, was also 100% female.

Our Uunka Katha project was possible with the support of British Council Nepal.

*Pictures of students of the Madrasa Islamiya were edited at the request of the school.

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