The ash of days

Thimi, Nepal 2009

photography and cinema

 

Thimi, or  Madhyapur, is an old city in the valley of Kathmandu, in the commercial route to Kathmandu. It sits in a high place and when you enter the city through its imposing portico, you have to do a bit of climbing to get to town. A place with winding streets and buildings in brick and carved wood where you can still admire countless mediaeval temples.

 

The people that live here belong to the Newar ethnic group, an ancestral people at the origin of civilisations in the valley of Kathmandu that worked both in trade through commercial routes as well as in the manufacturing of goods to be traded. Entire communities perfected specific crafts that passed from generation to generation and whose products were to be sold in the routes that connected Nepal to Tibet and India.

 

In Thimi, the community specialises in manufacturing everyday ceramic pieces. In these typical neighbourhoods with big communal courtyards there is a constant rush that sets whole families in motion. It is a community working for the same end. Everyday ceramic pieces are manufactured at a constant rate. Here what renders the process unique is the baking of the pieces in huge ovens built outdoors from ash and straw. Each baking can last up to six days.

 

The ash is placed in big layers over the pieces to be baked forming a compact and dense block that defines the oven´s limits.

 

The ash is part of these people’s routines, it is present and it spreads over all the surrounding areas. There is always a slight mist in the air, a thin and constant dust that pierces through everything and imposes itself.