An international exhibit showcasing the people of Nepal…
Elisabete Maisao and Ann Wilson are two ordinary women living extra ordinary lives. They met randomly in Amsterdam and traveled half way around the world to make a difference. Maisao is publishing her first book and they are staging several exhibitions around a project called â€śTurning the Wheels â€“ Nepal.”
In November 2011, the two women visited Katmandu and its surrounding villages, staying with and observing the daily lives of local people.
â€śNepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia and I was interested in experiencing how people live in a world so different than mine, how they cope without the amenities that I have access to, how they work, eat, play and laugh togetherâ€ť says Maisao who was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal. Maisao says that life in Nepal is hard and most activities are done without the help of modern machinery. Â There is no electricity and due to the rugged landscape and underdeveloped infrastructure, the only way to distribute goods is through porters carrying heavy loads up into the mountain villages.
Poverty and hardship breed creativity and resourcefulness. Whether it is a kite made from garbage, packets of noodles used as shoes, or old bicycle wheels as toys, the children are forced to do with whatever little they have. They assist with the daily household chores such as cutting grass for the livestock, helping out in the fields, fetching water from the village well and many other manual labor tasks. They tend to their younger brothers and sisters, being small children themselves. Â This is part of their daily routine and has been captured through photographs in â€śTurning the Wheels.â€ť
Maisao has been passionate about photography since she was twelve years old. She worked for Cosmopolitan, FHM, Lisbon Fashion Week and established her studio Nouvelle Photo in 2006 in Portugal. To further her international experience, she moved to Amsterdam and has successfully established herself as a creative photographer whilst continuing to provide education in photography.Â Maisao always wanted to capture peoplesâ€™ lives, discover new cultures and bring her experiences in photographs, whereby her work could also make a difference. She has initiated a new project on the same theme taking her around the world to different cultures living with locals and capturing the essence of their day to day lives.
The other half of this dynamic duo is Ann Wilson. Wilson was adopted from Korea by Danish parents when she was only two months old. She grew up in Denmark, lived in United States and travelled extensively throughout Asia. Wilson first visited Nepal in 1995 where she trekked the Annapurna Circuit and visited attractions in and around the Kathmandu valley. â€śI inhaled the country. I felt grateful that I was able to experience this beautiful land with just as beautiful people. But from where I stood I could also see that life was tough in Nepal. Nothing came for free. A wish of returning and doing something that would improve their quality of life had started to develop in meâ€ť recalls Wilson about her first encounter with Nepal.
Twelve years later, Wilson took her husband back to Nepal for their honeymoon and embarked on a trek to the Everest BaseÂ Camp. As if that wasnâ€™t adventurous enough, Wilson made Nepal her second home by staying on for another seven weeks withÂ a nonprofit organization, VolunteersÂ Initiative Nepal (VIN) where she volunteered Â as a pre-school teacher in a village called Tinpiple, about forty minutesÂ byÂ busÂ outside Kathmandu.
Once back in Amsterdam, Wilson felt that she could not carry on with her life as if nothing had happened. â€śThe experience changed me and I decided that I had to do something to enable VIN to continue with their projects in rural Nepal, so after a discussion with a Nepalese friend in Amsterdam, Friends of Volunteer Initiative Nepal was createdâ€ť says Wilson. The mission of Friends of VIN is to empower marginalized communities by creating healthy, self-sustainable communities where people have access to adequate sanitation, health care, education and economic opportunity. Friends of VIN have an integrated approach to community development where they work with all the local stakeholders, and the goal is to eventually remove their active presence as the community gains skills and education.
Elisabete Maisao and Ann Wilson met at a dinner party only a year ago. At the time, Wilson had just returned back from Nepal after working as a volunteer through VIN. They found mutual interest in making a difference in a third world country and came up with the idea of building a photo database in support of VIN. Maisao would take photos for Friends of VIN and Wilson would introduce Maisao to several families so that she could get behind the faĂ§ade of everyday life.
For two weeks in November, Maisao and Wilson lived with host families, shared close quarters with goats and tigers, and immersed themselves in the different ways of living in rural Nepal. The villages they stayed at were remote and had no electricity, so there was plenty of time to interact with the locals and document their daily lives. Maisao comments, â€śAt the end of the trip I was left reflecting on the contrast between the modernized world with the ongoing stress of the credit crisis, the over consumption and the self-centeredness, and on the other hand the reality of living with hardly any material goods but with the sense of love and belonging.â€ť The exhibition portrays how people manage to find the time to smile through these difficult realities. It truly showcases how they maintain the beauty of life in constantly challenging circumstances, which perhaps could be a lesson to us all.
Turning the Wheels hosted their opening exhibition on March 31, 2012 at the Amphora Art gallery and will be running through May 6. Next, it is scheduled at the International School in Dusseldorf, Germany on June 4, 2012.
To learn more about the project or to purchase the book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A portion of the profits from the photo and book sales will go towards building the communities in Nepal.
Sucheta Rawal is a freelance travel writer, based in Atlanta, GA. She also teaches international cooking classes. Sucheta founded the movement, Go Eat Give that encourages people to connect with cultures through food and community service. Read more about her adventures around the globe on her website.