Despite the monsoon downpour on 20 July, more than 400 people flowed through the gallery space of Nepal Arts Council on the opening night of WFP’s photo exhibition, “The Life of Food in Nepal”. Showcasing 46 works taken by 18 photographers across the country, the exhibition celebrates the central role food plays in the lives of the Nepalese people and Nepalese culture.
"From the grains that feed our bellies to the rituals that inspire Nepal's spirituality, food is the glue that holds life together, and we wanted to tell a story about the life of food in this country," said Richard Ragan, Nepal country director.
The theme of this six-day exhibition is the portrayal of the life of food – from the diverse lands on which different crops are grown to the daily dedication and rituals of preparing it for the table and the gods. “This exhibition is principally a celebration of Nepal's vibrant food culture, but it's also about raising awareness on issues around food insecurity in this country. By describing the "life of food" through the lens of the country's most talented photographers, we believe the story is much more powerfully told than mere words can describe,” said Richard.
Perched against a magnificent backdrop of the Himalayan ranges, the small and narrow landlocked nation of Nepal is extreme in its geographic diversity. From the river plains of the Terai in the south to the rugged mountain slopes of the north, the altitude rises from 70 metres in Kanchan Kalan to the rooftop of the world, Mt Everest, at 8,848 metres. “This country is blessed with some of the most stunning landscapes on earth, places that remind us how small we really are,” Richard said. “Yet, masked by this overwhelming beauty is the harsh reality of mountain life.”
The exhibition is also a powerful visual tribute to the resilience and spirit of Nepal’s farmers, who eke out existences in extremely remote and barren lands. Farmers face daily hardships that are often perilous, including extreme weather patterns, frequent droughts, landslides, floods and, increasingly, climate change.
Richard and WFP photographer James Gambrione had the idea of organizing a photo exhibition whilst travelling through Nepal on a field mission. “We really wanted to capture the landscape, culture, food and rituals that have been practiced here for thousands of years, and show not only how tough life can be for Nepal’s farmers but also the challenges WFP faces in trying to work in some of the remotest regions of Nepal inaccessible to most other NGOs,” Richard said.
Richard and James selected the 46 images for the exhibition from the 800 photographs by 17 freelance photographers and James that fit the theme and were assembled by two Nepali photographers over the course of three months. Several short feature documentaries, including the first locally made 3D animation about WFP’s work in Nepal, were screened at the exhibition. See it here in regular video.
Those attending the opening event included former Prime Minister of Nepal Surya Bahadur Thapa, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper and Suraj Vaidya, senior vice president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), and many development partners, donors and government officials.
A big thanks goes to the WFP country team for their hard work and creativity in making this event happen.
Nepal currently faces issues of chronic food insecurity, high food prices, poverty, post-conflict impacts and recurrent natural disasters. WFP provides food assistance to 2.2 million people through food/cash for assistance, school meals and maternal and child health care projects. WFP has been in Nepal since 1967 and has supported Bhutanese refugees since 1992.