Outcome exhibition by Essie Somma (USA )
Residency Period: March to May / Venue: Siddhartha Art Gallery Annex / Date: 19th May to 21st May 2023
Western hippies believe Nepal is the gateway to Nirvana, that the country is a mythical wonderland where one goes to connect with nature and discover their soul. In fact, this fantasy is so ingrained in Western thinking, Nepal has become fetishized.
Though, there must be something to this fantasy. Since the 1960s, Kathmandu has been a mainstay for Western hippies. Their pilgrimage by bus from Istanbul became known as the Hippie Trail. Cities along the route began playing Blue Oyster Cult and serving pizza alongside hashish cookies to cater to their new patrons.
After 10 years of ferrying passengers, the trail closed for two reasons. First, anti-Western ideology movements sprouted up in Iran and Afghanistan, physically closing the Middle Eastern portion of the route. Second, Richard Nixon’s war on drugs pressured the Nepali government to ban the growth, sale, and consumption of marijuana nationwide.
The Rolling Stones listed its closure as one of the significant tragedies of humanity in their song Sympathy for the Devil. “And I laid traps for troubadours / Who get killed before they reach Bombay.” Despite the dissolution of the Hippie Trail, Westerners still dream of visiting Nepal. Kathmandu is full of cafes, restaurants, and shops that cater to the demographic. Which begs the question, what is it about Nepal? Is it cannabis like Nixon said? Is it a longing to escape Western ideology, as the Irani anv Revolution and Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan fought for? Or is it something more humble and human? The one thing we can say for sure is that there is something.
Honey Hunters investigate Nepal’s ability to stitch fantasy with reality. With the origins of hippie migration in mind, this work views Nepal through the lens of psychedelic music, art, and nostalgia. Each stylistic decision in the work nods to one facet of the complex history between hippies and Kathmandu.