Seto Chapal | the white slippers is a conceptual public performance art on social conservative circumstances. It is an experiment on psychological state of people about the meaning of life and death. In Nepal we define white for mourning, red for wedding and black for bad fortune (Ashuva). The Seto Chapal is metaphor of mourning and comment on conservative obligation.
I know I have been facing some kind of psychological pressure after my mother passed away. There are so many obligations, it is like Ashuva to wear colorful clothes which is the ritual of mourning, and it is not the choice but the obligation. After the day I cremated my mother four months ago in Pashupatinath, I do not feel like going anywhere, attend any Shuvakarya, function of good fortune. This is my personal intension and I always have respect towards her for giving birth / brought up to me and my sisters either in ritual or usual ways. The society already created such a hype in such circumstances, though I feel like going my body feel hesitant to act upon.
As we see the social structure after the death of the husband, the wife has to wear white clothes and she became untouchable (jutho) but for male it is ok to marry after thirteen days of her cremation. Again she is kept away from home when she bleeds during her menstruation period still in the society of Nepal. It might be the mourning of the seeds. I do not find the reason behind it.
I have the questions why this conservative application are feeding into our norms, I always get an answer in term of Dharma (Good Deed) and Paap (Bad Evil). For my understand if you have good feeling towards your deed it is good if it is bad feeling towards your deed it is bad simple as that. The Seto Chapal is the questions of many different people in the society who have fallen within the same circumstances and everyone will face these psychological pressure within their life time. I warn you all to beware about these artificial agents.
In the performance I am carrying the “Kolan” the vase to keep “Pinda” during the mourning ritual, Shradda. Usually Pinda is white sphere to represent the dead body but I am creating five pindas with five different colors to represent five different elements Water, Air, Sky, Fire and Earth. It is just to create awareness about the death which is the truth. Bell is to represent time.
I know as an artist I paint colours, performance, create in my joy and even sadness, this is my own ritual. Freedom really matters to me. There no harm is expressing the reality.
The Seto Chapal is the mourning for all the sad stories happening in our country and the world. And the silent questions???
Manish Lal Shrestha
Visual Artist/ Performance Artist
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Special thanks to
The Luna poets team, Salil Subedi, Sandeep Dangol, Saroj Aryal, Che Shankar, Nistha Rai, Anil Subba, Ritesh Maharjan, Rabin Kaji Shakya, Bethany M Richards and Graham Blackshaw.
During the performance procession one old woman street vendor on the pathway of Indrachowk, I paused infront of her as a part of the performance, she offered some money in the name of god. After seeing colourful pindas in the vase I was carrying people started offering more money. I got so astonished with the behavior of the people and overwhelmed by their love and compassion. I was not expecting that at all. After the intense performance in Itumbahal, I wanted to go back and meet the same old women who offered money for the first time. I went with the group of my friends who were the part of the performance to meet her and share the idea. I asked her do you remember a person who came here by ringing the bells, I was that person. She again took out her purse and tried to give me more. And I said no Ma (mother) you do not need to give me.We came here to give you the money I have received during my performance. I added extra some money from my pocket and gave it to her. She felt so emotional so did I. One of my friends Salil explained her about the performance, it was the tribute to his mother who passed away four months ago. It was such a compassionate feeling from the public. I believe this performance turned the full circle and created awareness about the death which is ultimate truth. Life should move on and we should spread compassion and love as always. Yes, art can change lives and make magical difference.
photo courtesy: Rabin Kaji Shakya