The Bardiya Memorial Quilts

Background

The two quilts featured in these pages commemorate seventeen men and women who disappeared during the conflict in Nepal (1996-2006). Most of the victims were seized at their homes by members of the security forces and taken off, never to reappear. A smaller number were kidnapped by Maoist rebels.

These events occurred in the district of Bardiya which suffered more disappearances (272) than any other district in Nepal. As we explain on other pages, this was because the Tharu people who live in the region were viewed as sympathetic towards the Maoist rebels.

AP’s involvement with the Bardiya cooperative began in 2015 when we began a partnership with NEFAD, the network of family members. This led us to the Bardiya group. Between 2016 and 2018 we sent four Peace Fellows to work at the Bardiya cooperative and introduce the women to advocacy quilting. By the end of 2018, they had made over 50 squares.

In April 2019, Iain Guest from AP visited Bardiya with Bobbi Fitzsimmons, an expert quilter from North Carolina and an AP Board member. Bobbi helped the women design and produce two quilts in just ten days – a remarkable example of north-south cooperation between women artists. It was also the first time that an American quilter has visited an AP partner and provided technical support.

These pages carry photos of the cooperative members and their squares. For more information about the background and for full profiles of the cooperative members click here.

One of the quilts is staying in Nepal, where it will be shown at events and used by the Bardiya women to demand justice. The second quilt is serving much the same purpose in the US and will feature prominently at future AP exhibitions. At the request of the  cooperative, Bobbi also offered training in making bags for sale (photo). The women hope to make and sell 100 bags in 2019.

For more on this project and full profiles of the artistsvisit our campaign pages.

Artists

Quilt 1-3Geeta

Geeta‘s brother, Lallu, was forcibly taken from his home in Sujanpur in March 2001. Her father went to see him in the barrack to  sign for his bail. During his hearing, Lallu suddenly disappeared. Lallu was a student and was not a Maoist, but it was the worst time of the insurgency — Geeta mentions how the army often took young men who were considered a threat. At the time, Geeta was seven years old. She has four brothers and is extremely gifted in embroidery; she learned to sew very fast. Geeta received compensation for her loss and purchased some land with the money. Upon reflecting on the memory of her brother, Geeta states: “He was very good and well educated. He was always trying to educate me.”

 

                                       Quilt 1-3 .   Quilt 1-3

Quilt 1-3Mankumari

Mankumari’s sister Sumitra disappeared in March 2001. This is one of the saddest stories, which illustrates why the disappearances have been such a tragedy for the Tharu. When she was very young, Sumitra was sent to work in the house of a landowner as a domestic servant (kamlari). In return, her parents were allowed to use the landlord’s land. Sumitra spent 15 years away from home and by the time she returned the Maoists assumed she would be receptive to their message of social change. They put pressure on the family by visiting the house for food and inviting them to break their ties to the landlord. Manakumari thinks Sumitra was seized because she attended a concert which the army viewed as propaganda.

Quilt 1-3

 

Quilt 1-3

Unknown

 

 

 

 

Quilt 1-3

Unknown

 

 

 

Quilt 1-3

Kushma

Kushma was seven when her father Ton Bahadur was taken from home by soldiers at night. She does not remember the incident, but her mother has described it many times: “The army came to my home, took my father away and beat him.” Kushma’s father was another victim of a local score. He was not a Maoist, but active in social work in the community. He won a local election and got into an argument with an unsuccessful candidate who denounced Bahadur to the army. Ton had many friends in the village, but the army did not investigate.

 

                                     Quilt 1-3         Quilt 1-3

 

PoojaQuilt 1-3

Pooja’s father Hukum had been farming in India when he disappeared in 2001. Soldiers took Hukum to an army base near the family home and national park. He never reappeared, and Pooja – who was a year old at the time – remains protective of his memory. She concedes that her father had once been a Maoist sympathizer but says he was no longer active: “He was living an ordinary life.”

 

 

 

Quilt 1-3

 

Harikala

Harikala’s father-in-law named Amar Budha was forcibly disappeared. He used to work on a farm. He was politically inclined to the Maoists, and was taken away from his house at night by the army in 2002.

Quilt 1-3

 

 

KamalaQuilt 1-3

Kamala is one of only two cooperative members who has been able to bury a relative, bringing some measure of closure. Kamala’s father Keshad was a policeman and in 2002, when Kamala was one year old, the police station where he served was overrun Maoists. Keshad was among those who surrendered only to be shot down. “I don’t remember him but I need to remember the deed. If my father was still alive he would care for me,” she says.

 

 

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Binita

Binita’s husband died in Bardiya, Nepal in 2002. The army took her husband away along with four others from their local village. Binita insists that her husband did not support the Maoists, rather that the Maoists came to their home and forced Binita to make food for them to eat. She went in search of him with her son, but there was no information on her husband’s whereabouts. Binita received compensation for the loss of her husband and testified to the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). She wants justice for her husband; she states: “I can’t forget. I always remember him and my two children, it is difficult to support the entire family.”

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Alina

Alina was an infant when her father Hira Mani disappeared in 2003. Hira made furniture and earned 90,000 rupees a month – a significant amount. One day, he went to work at a neighbor’s house and never returned home. Soldiers came to the family home and questioned Manju, her mother. Manju was about to follow them when a neighbor stopped her, afraid that they would take Manju away as well.

 

 

 

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Sarita

Sarita is the inspiration behind the Bardiya cooperative. She was eleven when her father Shayam was denounced by a cousin as a Maoist and detained. Sarita, her mother and younger brother were then ostracized and driven from the village. Sarita gave up school to concentrate on the search for her father which has cost the family an estimated 200,000 rupees ($2,000). She endured further tragedy after her husband died from a snake-bite. But these misfortunes only stiffened Sarita’s resolve. Sarita is a strong believer in embroidery as a means of empowering women and has led the projects to produce 50 memorial squares and Tiger bags.

 

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Aishwarya

Aishwarya was a year old in 2001 when her father Bupendra was seized by soldiers while working in the fields. Aishwarya’s family has received compensation and testified to the disappearances commission but she does not hold out much hope for the commission. Asked what should be done she answers in a soft voice: “I can’t answer that.” But she is clear about why she clings to the memory of her father: “I know how important it is for my mother. Also, I feel his absence when I see my friends with their fathers.”

 

 

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Sharmila

Sharmila’s father, Kallu, was arrested despite not being political. “A large group of soldiers came to our home and demanded that we open the door. My father was not even dressed. At least they allowed him to put on some clothes.” The family went to the local army base but could not get any news. Sharmila was the youngest of six children and in her second year of university when we first met. But she has had to work the land to make ends meet and pay for school, which costs 2,000 a year. When asks whether it is time to forget, she blinks back tears: “My family was dependent on my father. I remember him a lot!”

 

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Prem Kumari

Prem Kumari’s husband, Prem Bahadur, was another casualty of local animosities. One of Prem Bahadur closest friends, Uttam, was serving in the army when he decided to visit his mother. It was a risky move and a group of Maoists arrived and seized Uttam, Prem Bahadur, and a third friend. Prem Bahadur and Prem Kumari had been married for four years and had two children. Prem Kumari has been the family breadwinner ever since her husband disappeared. The family land has been transferred to her name, but she remains dependent on her father-in-law, who has registered his son as deceased “because he was worried about his grandchildren.” Luckily the two are on good terms. Other families are not so fortunate. The ownership of land and disputes about compensation have divided several families.

Quilt 1-3

 

 

Quilt 1-3Kancham

In the afternoon of 2002, Kancham’s family threw a modest party at their home. The army was out patrolling and heard that Maoists were hiding in the village, so they came and watched. They shot through their family window without warning, killing Kancham’s brother. Later, the army returned and burned down their home. Kancham was nine at the time and was not home when this event took place. Her brother was 26-years-old and married with two kids. After her brother died, her sister-in-law went with another man and took their children. Kanchan did not receive compensation for the loss of her brother, as the payment goes to the wife or the kids. Kanchan remembers her brother with fondness; she states: He could support his family well.”

Quilt 1-3

 

First Quilt

Quilt 1

 

Quilt 1-3

Geeta

Geeta’s memorial square commemorates her brother’s life.

 

 

Quilt 1-2

Mankumari

Mankumari’s sister was seized by soldiers after attending a concert that the army viewed as propaganda

 

Quilt 1-4

Unknown

 

 

 

Quilt 1-5

Unknown

 

 

Quilt 1-6

Kushma

 

 

 

Quilt 1-7

Pooja

Pooja’s square recounts her father’s disappearance in 2001 after he was taken to an army base.

 

Quilt 1-8

Harikala

Harihala’s memorial square shows her father-in-law, Amar Budha being taken.

 

Quilt 1-9

Kamala

 

 

 

Second Quilt

Quilt 2' width =

 

 

Quilt 1-9

Geeta

 

 

 

 

Quilt 1-9

Binita

Binita’s square commemorates the life of her late husband, who is shown blindfolded and surrounded by soldiers.

 

 

Quilt 1-9

Alina

 

 

 

Quilt 1-9

Sarita

 

 

 

Quilt 1-9

Aishwarya

Aishwarya designed her memorial square depicting her father being taken from their home by the army soldiers. It took her a week to complete.

 

 

Quilt 1-9

Kushma

Kushma’s memorial square depicts her father being taken away by the army at their family home. The army came to their house and surrounded it, they then took her father and beat him.

 

 

Sharmila

Sharmila’s father was abruptly taken from the family home by a group of soldiers, which she displays in her square.

 

 

Prem Kumari

 

 

 

Kancham

Kancham’s memorial square reenacts the scene of her brother’s death — her brother is being shot in front of his wife and crying son.