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THE RITUALS OF DEATH
This essay looks inside the traditional Nepalese Hindu rituals and cycle of death at Kathmandu’s Holiest shrine for cremation, Pasupatinath. From the hospital located right alongside the ghats where patients come to die, the washing and blessing rituals for the dead, hair cutting ceremonies and the cremation of the bodies. Pasupati is the second holiest place for Hindu’s to be cremated outside of Varanasi in India. The mourning and burning rituals take place on the ghats lining the Bagmati River that eventually leads into the Ganges River. The cremations are open to the public and as bodies are cremated there are other Hindu practices taking place throughout the temple complex, with bathings, pujas and pilgrimages. There is an atmosphere of humanity clashing with ancient traditions and the environment. Animals roam freely among the people and wood is still used for the body cremations causing plumes of toxic smoke to constantly hover around the temples and its surroundings. Due to environmental damages caused by the fires the Nepalese Government is planning to ban the ancient practice of using wood this year and replace the cremation ghats with electric ovens instead.
The Rituals of Death is on exhibition from May 7th at the TAFE Sydney Institute of Photography as part of the Head On Photography Festival.
STEPHEN DUPONT is an Australian documentary photographer and film-maker who has produced a remarkable body of visual work; hauntingly beautiful photographs of fragile cultures and marginalized peoples. He captures the human dignity of his subjects with great intimacy and often in some of the world’s most dangerous regions. His images have received international acclaim for their artistic integrity and valuable insight into the people, culture and communities that have existed for hundreds of years, yet are fast disappearing from our world.
Dupont’s work has earned him photography’s most prestigious prizes, including a Robert Capa Gold Medal citation from the Overseas Press Club of America; a Bayeux War Correspondent’s Prize; and first places in the World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, the Australian Walkleys, and Leica/CCP Documentary Award. In 2007 he was the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography for his ongoing project on Afghanistan. In 2010 he received the Gardner Fellowship at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.
His work has also featured in The New Yorker, Aperture, Newsweek, GQ, French and German GEO, Le Figaro, Liberation, The Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Stern, Time and Vanity Fair.
Dupont has held major exhibitions in London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Canberra, Tokyo, and Shanghai, and at Perpignan’s Visa Pour L’Image, China’s Ping Yao and Holland’s Noorderlicht festivals.
Dupont’s handmade photographic artist books and portfolios are in selected collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Australian War Memorial, The Library Of Congress in Washington DC, The New York Public Library, Harvard Fogg Museum, Berlin and Munich National Art Libraries, Stanford University, Yale University, Boston Athenaeum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Joy of Giving Something Inc.