A new exhibition at Caldwell College will open an intimate window to Nepal and its people this September.
Pushparaj Aitwal, a 2011 graduate of Caldwell College, will display his inaugural exhibition "En Rungmung: We are Rung" at the college's Visceglia Gallery Sept. 18 through Oct. 18 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The reception on Sept. 21 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. will coincide with Caldwell’s Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Aitwal has worked as a photographer in the United States and in Nepal. The works celebrate the Rung people, a community unique among the population of Nepal — Aitwal’s home country.
Born in a small village in the Himalayan frontier of Nepal, India, and Tibet, Aitwal credits his interest in portraiture to his search for pictures of his grandparents.
“My journey began as a child’s simple reaction to not having ever seen his grandparents. I never knew how they looked and it was discomforting not being able to put faces to their names," said Aitwal.
This led to his project of recording the people and life of the small, tightly knit Rung communities who live in a series of valleys stretching between northwestern Nepal and India.
Despite the encroachments of the modern world, the Rung continue to live a life centered on the cycle of the seasons: summers in the high mountains, winters in the hills to the south, herding livestock and tending crops in warmer months, producing products for trade with other Rung communities across the borders in the winter.
As the modern world slowly creeps into the Rung’s life, Aitwal has intentionally focused his lens on the elders of the villages as the keepers of the Rung traditions lest they be completely lost to future generations. Thus, what originally had begun as a photography project evolved into Aitwal’s passion for knowing more about the traditions and customs of his people, and preserving them as much as possible for the future generations of Rung.
The curator is Maribeth Flynn, who teaches in the Art Department at Caldwell College.