Art + Technology to Explore Gender & Empowerment in Nepal

Nepal Communitere is extremely excited to announce that the American Arts Incubator Program will be returning in 2020! Artist Jennifer Berry will be returning along with another American artist Tiare Ribeaux to run a series of workshops on ‘Mediated Reality’. Participants will get to learn and use augmented reality for working on art projects on women empowerment and gender issues. The project will be one of the first projects to use Nepal Communitere’s new Fab Lab space.

Chiya Chautari hosted by American Arts participant Santona Malakar on November 23, 2019.

Our hub had the pleasure of hosting American artist Jennifer Berry for a month in April 2019 as she led a group of Nepali artists through a series of workshops combining art and technology. During these workshops, the artists were challenged in many ways. It was a month of candid conversations, deep dialogue and genuine debate on gender issues and women’s empowerment in the Nepali context. Each group experienced powerful breakthroughs in their artistic process and were ultimately able to transform their artistic vision into reality by learning how to use digital fabrication tools and computer-assisted design softwares. 

For Nepal Communitere, it has been an extra special win to watch the AAI artist groups take their art installations to a broader audience. AAI 2019 participant Santona Malakar recently hosted an event called ‘Chiyaa Chautari’ to bring her AAI art project, a board game called ‘Jen Didi ko Chiya Pasal’, to Hostel Solo Travel Nepal. Santona, along with AAI participants Sristi and Sonam came up with the concept for the board game during the April 2019 AAI workshops. The game itself is a clever play on Snakes and Ladders. Players roll the dice and based on the number they land on, the game prompts them to share real life experiences of gender imbalances. Serving as a creative tool to spark conversations on women empowerment, ‘Jen Didi Ko Chiya Pasal’ allows players of any gender, age and professional backgrounds to feel welcome and safe as they engage in complex conversations. 

Two ‘Chiya Chautari’ guests play the board game created by Santona and her AAI group members Sristi Gurung and Sonam Tamang.

The vision of this art project goes beyond the board game though. ‘Jen didi ko Chiya Pasal’ mimics the ubiquitous tea-shops (“chiya-pasal”) found on almost any street corner in Nepal. Typically, mostly men are in these hangout spots enjoying their sip of tea, sharing their work stories, their take on politics and much more. With ‘Jen Didi ko Chiya Pasal’, Santona hopes to make the traditional tea shop a women-friendly space. Giving women the permission to also chill out and de-stress within a community setting; not just have to go straight to their home from work and tend to their domestic chores.  

Santona Malakar although not an artist by profession has been able to continue her artistic exploration beyond the duration of the one month program through the help of AAI’s sustainability grants. For Nepal Communitere, it was important to bring in an innovative arts program like AAI and not have it start and end within just our space. One of the main reasons Nepal Communitere knew working with a partner like ZeroOne on this creative exchange program was the right choice was precisely because of their commitment to the sustainability of these artist projects. In the coming months, more of the AAI participants will be hosting small pop-up showcases to exhibit their art projects and sparking meaningful conversations on gender and women’s empowerment through art and technology. 

As for Nepal Communitere, the goal has always been to seed innovative approaches and projects, enable them to grow and create opportunities for innovation beyond on our own space. Bravo, to the bold AAI artist for taking their work further!

Jennifer Berry holds degrees and certificates in science, art and design. Berry has a powerful vision of stewardship to the planet, and her work attempts to untangle the relationship between nature, heritage, and the built environment by weaving new narratives that reveal the unintended, and sometimes delightful, consequences of our own ingenuity. Science and art have played dual roles in Berry’s life, and she uses these tools to share her explorations with a greater audience to affect real change in the world. Berry’s art practice includes sculpture in traditional mediums as well as new media, and her social practice comes in the form of classes, workshops and presentations.

American Arts Incubator is a creative exchange program that utilizes community-driven digital and new media art projects to instigate dialogue, build communities, bolster local economies, and further social innovation. AAI sends a U.S. artist abroad to collaborate with local communities in each exchange country during a month-long incubator. These creative collaborations transfer skills in art, technology, and entrepreneurship.