Prasiit Sthapit’s series The New Silk Road focuses on the recent Chinese-funded construction of a highway between Syabrubesi and Rasuwagadhi, an 18-kilometer stretch that connects Kerung, Tibet with Kathmandu and facilitates border trade between Nepal and China. This project has been seen as an attempt by China to strengthen relations with Nepal and weaken Indian influence in the country, although there are also lingering questions about China’s intentions in relation to Tibet.
Sthapit’s images focus on the impact of this construction and what it means for local people who, although they are of indigenous Nepalese ancestry, are heavily influenced by Tibetan culture and speak the language. Sthapit was struck that the building of this road was not more publicized by the mainstream media and questioned how the accessibility the road offered might affect both the daily lives and the long-term preservation of local culture.
A woman in traditional dress gazes out the window at the surrounding landscape which passes by in a green-tinted blur. While the new road has made travel much easier, it has also changed the relationship between the inhabitants and their environment. The construction spurred new economic forces in the area increasing land values to the detriment of the traditional subsistence of long-term inhabitants and encouraging sprawl. Digging also weakened an already sensitive topographical area. The road was heavily damaged in the April and May 2015 earthquakes, and re-opened in October 2015.
Image: Prasiit Sthapit. Born in Kathmandu, Nepal, Born 1988. Lives and works in Kathmandu. Untitled from The New Silk Road, 2011. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist. ©2016 Prasiit Sthapit