In Nepali language, the word “anubhutee” means ‘expression of feeling’. Therefore, anubhutee in the context of “Anubhutee”: A Group Painting Exhibition by 8 Women Artists of Nepal, means ‘expression of feeling’ – through art. To add another layer of depth, anubhutee is derived from the expression of women’s feelings. As an Australian woman, with a love for Nepal, this exhibition strikes to the core of my woman’s heart – because it touches on my personal feelings of being a wife, mother and daughter.
In March 2011, in Nepal, I first experienced anubhutee when I was working, as a creative arts therapist, with traumatised women who were untrained artists. Art was used as a means to explore and express emotions. The focus of the work was on the process of making art, not the art product itself. However, the women poured ‘raw emotion’ into their work – and some women discovered hidden artistic talent through the creation of unexpectedly beautiful artwork. Anubhutee.
In October 2011, I experienced anubhutee for the second time through Nepali women’s artwork, by trained artists, at Newa Chen Art Gallery, Patan. Through contemporary expression, I began to see stories of Nepali women emerging through art. Closely following, I attended a Nepalese women’s thangka painting exhibition in Australia. However, I did not feel a sense of anubhutee from this traditional form of painting. When I reflected on why I felt like this, I realized that it did not allow for ‘freedom of expression’ of the artist – or for feelings to be expressed in a personal form.
In November 2012, I had my third, and most poignant, experience of anubhutee when I met Nepali women artists Sarita Dongol and Manju Shyaula at Newa Chen Art Gallery. In conversation with them, I began to unravel the threads of inspiration behind their contemporary work. Through artistic expertise, these women were daring to paint on canvas, mark in print, or shape through metaphor, women’s experiences of life often suppressed in Nepali culture. Although the women were not aware of it, I was inspired by their work – and the courage they had found to document these experiences through art. Soon afterwards, I was then touched by the art of Erina Tamrakar (via Facebook).
Now to frame “Anubhutee”: A Group Painting Exhibition by 8 Women Artists of Nepal. This contemporary art exhibition draws together a ‘collective of women’, at various stages in their art careers, who ‘voice’ – through art – their personal experiences of being Nepali women or observations of women’s experiences of life in Nepal. (This exhibition includes the work of Sarita Dongol, Manju Shyaula and Erina Tamrakar.) Collectively, and individually, the women express emotions on impending motherhood (“Pregnancy” by Manju Shyaula); the mother-child relationship (“Mother and Child” by Erina Tamrakar); women’s perceptions on God (“God” by Jasmine Rajbhandari ); ‘words left unsaid’ (“Speaking Silent” by Sarita Dongol); motherhood rituals in Newari culture (Chhaithi Karma” by Deena Shrestha); the joy and sorrow of women (“Women Expression” by Pramila Bajracharya); and metaphorical expressions of women’s relationships with life (“You and Me” by Saurganga Darshandhari). Last, but not least, the exhibition is threaded together by a striking painting of one of Nepal’s heroines for women (Anuradha Koirala), who works tirelessly for the plight of trafficked women and girls (“Mamata” by Sandhya Silwal). Through the vibrancy of colour, I, as a woman, can feel the joy and – paradoxically – the sorrow that has (directly or indirectly) been a part of these women’s lives.
In the words of Henry Matisse, “Creativity takes courage”. Through “Anubhutee”: A Group Painting Exhibition by 8 Women Artists of Nepal, 8 women artists have placed the feelings of Nepali women in the public eye. This takes courage. As well as providing inspiration to me, I hope the art brings hope to others, in particular, Nepali women – wives, mothers and daughters – whose stories of life have yet to be told.