I have to say that I was extremely overwhelmed when I first arrived in Kathmandu. Not only was I in a completely new country, with a culture quite opposite to that of my hometown of Princeton, New Jersey, but I was also completely alone. It was the first time in my life truly living alone, and somehow I picked Nepal as my country of choice. Other than exploring the artistic, cultural, and architectural wonders Kathmandu has to offer for the two months I was there, I spent the remaining time interning at the Taragaon Museum.
There, I learned how to work quickly and productively with other coworkers by collaborating on a new design for a permanent exhibit in the Museum. I understood the importance of conserving ancient art, as well as the significance of continuous research on art forms and practices that should not be forgotten. Most importantly, I discovered the significance of cultural acceptance and awareness, without which it would have been impossible to do the necessary research in the outskirts of Kathmandu. This short, two-week research project on the cultural, artistic, and architectural changes that have occurred in Bhaktapur and Bungamati since the 1960’s and 70’s, enabled me to open my eyes to the rapidly changing social and political landscape of the areas. After weeks of discussions with different museum directors and chiefs, in addition to cultural experts and religiously significant persons, I began to finally understand how people live differently and what factors of their lives, those that differ from mine, contribute to these cultural changes.
For this big research project, I was asked to focus on one building or area in both Bungamati and Bhaktapur. In Bungamati I researched the main temple square, and in Bhaktapur, I spent time learning about the Pujarimath, which is now the Woodcarving Museum. Although I expected to only research these specific buildings and spaces, most of the interviews I conducted, alongside my coworker, opened up much broader questions on politics, society, and religion. This sparked interest in why so many architectural and artistic changes were occurring throughout Nepal and conducting research in these specific areas enabled me to hypothesize about the lack of restoration on these unbelievably beautiful Newari buildings.
In a more holistic sense, just purely being in Nepal, breathing its polluted air, sharing the road with cows and dogs, and interacting with locals, opened my eyes to a culture I was extremely unfamiliar with. Being in this city enabled me to let go of the slight ethnocentricity that I, and all people, innately possess and accept others regardless of any form of physical, cultural, or religious differences. What was before a feeling of being overwhelmed quickly transformed into a feeling of awe and intrigue with the intricacies the Nepali people share with the world.
Wildberg is currently studying at Princeton University,USA. She interned with The Taragaon Museum for a period of one month from July – August 2018.