Dalit, a Quest for Dignity

Nepal Picture Library


8 - 20 December 2018
Venue: Riverside

The struggle for dignity fundamentally shapes the Dalit experience in Nepal. The caste system in Nepal works by not only maintaining material inequality between the upper castes and lower castes but also by making honor and humiliation issues of everyday practice. Even the commands of law and the state to end caste discrimination have proven weak against the legacy of this brutality against Dalits in Nepali social life. Dalits in Nepal struggle to break the identity of untouchability that the dominance of upper castes thrusts on them. Since the start of the democratic movement in Nepal, Dalit activists have worked to create a space from which the exclusion of Dalits from public life can be challenged. The quest for basic human dignity is critical to the Dalit movement. The Dalit identity stands for the values of equality, respect, and social justice. Presented here is a selection from a photographic anthology of the various meanings of dignity for Nepali Dalits. These historical and contemporary photographs bear testimony to the history of social, economic, political and intellectual disadvantage that Dalits are up against. But they also show how Dalits make resource of their own cultural pasts for a new and respectable identity.

Nepal Picture Library

Nepal Picture Library (NPL) is a digital photo archive run by photo.circle that strives to create a broad and inclusive visual archive of Nepali social and cultural history. Since its inception in 2011, NPL has collected over 70,000 photographs from various private and organizational sources across Nepal. The archive serves as a safe and open repository for materials that can secure a multicultural and pluralist representation of Nepali history. It also functions as a medium for active public engagement through which Nepali people can deepen meaningful connections with the past. As part of its objective to create a visually dense version of Nepali history for and with public audiences, NPL has created a network of professionals with interest or specialized knowledge in museum design, preservation, curation, exhibition, graphic design, oral history, writing, education, ethnography, visual culture, media, art history, photography, and publishing.