Our third grantee for the Reminders Photography Stronghold Wall Grant is to be awarded to Arantxa Cedillo. Here is a note from one of our commissioned judges, Svetlana Bachevanova, founder of FotoEvidence.

Broken Rules by Arantxa Cedillo speaks of the power of women in Nepal and shows the first women to have broken new ground. The work is a tribute to women who have shown courage and determination in this very conservative society.

“I want that sexual assault and rape towards women stops.” This is what Sareena Rai, a punk singer and one of the women portrayed in the project sings in her songs.

“Women are still at risk of being trafficked and suffer sexual abuse in Nepal”, shares Charimaya Tamang who was 16 years old when she was trafficked. It took her a long time to recover and now Charimaya is an activist fighting for women’s rights in Nepal.

A social worker, pilot, nun, social activist, tracker, politician, and a lawyer are on the long list of women who broke the rules and were captured in Arantxa project. “While living in Nepal, I decided to dedicate my work to gender issues that included trafficking, sexual violence and gender discrimination. I realized that the best way to take on the many issues affecting women was through the voice of the female leaders, who were the pioneers of change and whose work was fully dedicated to bringing on positive solutions.” Arantxa said.
“I did research for a few months and interviewed many women before taking my decision on who were the ones who I thought best represented the range of issues that affect women in Nepal. Soon the list became very large, so I decided to include those who didn’t have that much presence in the media at the time or who were the first women to pioneer in different fields.”

In Broken Rules women pose in Arantxa’s studio in front of hand painted traditional backgrounds which she collected over the course of six months from many different small photo studios in and around Katmandu. They were originally painted by Nepali and Indian artists and were used in the past for traditional portraits of people. They are not used anymore, so finding them was really a challenge but I feel they link my subjects with the past and tradition in a way that creates a contrast with their rule breaking.
Before taking their portraits Arantxa interviewed each woman who participated in the series and she and the woman chose the background that corresponded better with her past story or defined her role today.

Broken Rules has a traditional aesthetic but offers a future vision for women who fight for equal rights in Nepal.

– Svetlana Bachevanova