Stealing Earth

Chitwan National Park, the first protected area in Nepal, was established in 1973 after having been a favouredhunting and trading destination of Nepal’s royalty and the British colonisers for over a century. Since then, it has become the icon of biodiversity protection and tourism development. But for indigenous communities like Bote, Majhi, Musahar, Kumal, and Chepang, who depend on natural resources for their sustenance, the forest is home.
The National Park has been steadily expanding since its inception. The protected area legislation in the new constitution that came into effect in 2015, is reminiscent of the autocratic monarchy state. The government can declare protected areas and buffer zones in any territory without consulting local and indigenous inhabitants of that area resulting in forced evictions, loss of land and livelihood, arrests, torture and sexual assault by armed forces, of people belonging to themarginalised communities.
An 800-strong armed troops battalion of the Nepal Army, entrusted with ensuring the security of the National Park, acts with impunity. The Army does not fall under the jurisdiction of the anti-graft constitutional body. ‘Stealing Earth’ addresses how the rhetoric of conservation is used to enclose land, forest and water for the wealthy and powerful, and push the poor and disempowered further to the margins.

Karan Shrestha works between Nepal and India. His practice incorporates drawings, sculpture, photography, text, film, and video that speak to the complex, entangled relations of Nepal’s recent history. His work examines and restructures notions of the ‘present’ through setting up encounters between physical landscapes and the mental maps of people and spaces. Shrestha’s projects are a synthesis of an archive of the terrain, political histories, transient memories, and a speculative world that suspends reality, probing all the while at the fraught rhetoric of progress that is constantly pitted as the only way forward.