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Nepal, April 30, 2010

I see Lenin! Soviet Socialist Iconography in Nepal's Maoist Protests Posters

Maoist poster in the wild
Original PDF sent by ANFTU
I love Soviet-era propaganda imagery. It's so bold and striking, simple in its style yet effective in its message. So it was with great joy that I saw this Maoist poster in Nepal, calling people to action on the May 1st protests.

Let us break down the imagery that All Nepal Federation Trade Union (ANFTU) uses, and link it to Soviet expression of socialism now long past.

Frame of faces and flags

First, the upper half of the poster is framed by imagery of missing Maoist members, reinforcing the message of sacrifice and martyrdom for a greater cause. Flags showing different manual labour tools frame the lower half. I am not sure if these represent different unions, but they're a direct copy of Soviet posters that use the flags of all the Soviet states.

Upper half poster imagery

Next the upper portion of the poster contains a Soviet and a socialism reference. In the upper left, the hammer and star flag over the world is a direct descendant of earlier USSR flags over the world produce by the Soviet Union.

In the upper right, are busts of Marx, Trosky, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, giving the direct impression that the central figure on this poster is drawing from these earlier socialist leaders and has there approval. I am only disappointed that Castro isn't also represented.

Central figure representation

The man pictured in a larger size, assumed to be the central speaker at the upcoming rally is not done in an overt Soviet style - this is the Nepali influence. The image is a photograph, not a drawing, and he is pictured with a microphone. Neither is common to Soviet posters.

Lower half poster imagery

Here in the foreground of the poster bottom half are representations of angry, protesting labourers. While their mannerism are Soviet, the facial coloration - with the forehead white - is not Soviet. Yet there is a visual link to past protests, manifested by the raised arms leading back from the foreground and up towards the central figure, and from him, to the socialist busts.

Note that in the extreme foreground, the protesting workers are breaking through chains of oppressions, a final beautiful homage to Soviet imagery of the past.

Obtaining a poster

I was so enthralled by the poster's attempt to use Soviet iconography to link the present Maoist movement with past socialist leaders and activities, that I spent the whole week trying to find a poster I could take with me. Defeated at finding one that I could remove in one piece, I then employed modern technology to secure a sample. I emailed the ANFTU and they quickly sent me the original PDF.

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Nepal, April 29, 2010

On the Worship and Value of Red Bricks in Kathmandu, Nepal

To worship at the red brick altar
Bricks are of great value in Nepal. You know this even before you arrive, as brick kilns sprout like grass across the Kathmandu valley, conspicuous in their number as you approach KTM airport. They populate the countryside - more than houses or roads - producing millions of red bricks.

Do not be fooled into thinking that this means red bricks are common. No, even though you see them piled everywhere from street corners to back yards, they are very valuable.

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Nepal, April 28, 2010

Look Ma, Mount Everest is right there!

Pointing out Mt. Everest
At dawn this morning, Bryan Berry, Tony Anderson and I climbed aboard Buddha Air Flight 102 from Kathmandu (KTM) to Mt. Everest. It was a little twin-engine turbo prop with just one seat on each side of the aircraft, so everyone had a window and isle seat.

And here's why that mattered: we flew along the Himalayan range from Borile Lakpa to Makalu, including Mount Everest herself.

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Nepal, April 27, 2010

Kathmandu Traffic Jam Taxicab Driving

My preferred conveyance
Nepalese learn how to drive on small country roads that have no defined lanes, shoulders, or rules. And when they get to Kathmandu's mix of narrow side roads and few four-lane boulevards, they continue their lawless driving with great flair.

Here's a video of my taxi ride from Patan to Kathmandu, through one of the many epic Maoist-inspired traffic snarls:

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Nepal, April 26, 2010

How to Mix and Pour Concrete Floors by Hand in Nepal

Back-breaking concrete mixing
How do you pour concrete to build a new second floor on a house in Kathmandu, Nepal? By hand. Yes, every single ounce of cement is mixed, moved, and set by hand.

First, the concrete ingredients are put into the mixing hopper. Gravel, sand, water and cement mix are all shoveled in with hand labour - not even wheelbarrows are used! Gravel is shoveled by two people (one working the shovel, the other using rope to help) into a basket strapped to the body of a third laborer who walks it to the hopper.

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