Back to Nepal: A Canadian Perspective
Wayne Johnston is engaged in explorations of what it means to return, the role of specific sites in the experience of memory, and the ways in which past and present experience can inform each other. These explorations lead him on a personal journey of return to Kathmandu for the first time since 2007. The results are captured in a creative literary project. This is supplemented by observations drawn from interviews with Nepalis currently living in Canada. In these interviews Johnston further explores the concept of “home” within the experiences of international migration. How does life in Canada transforms perspectives on Nepal? What does it mean to return to Nepal as a visitor rather than a resident? How do you make sense of changes in the loci of your memories, whether those are the inevitable changes over time or the result of cataclysmic events like the 2015 earthquake.
The findings are based largely on informal interviews conducted with Nepalis currently living in Canada. Interviewees are chosen to provide as much diversity as possible both in terms of their demographics and their experience returning to Nepal. Common themes and trends are identified. Compelling narratives are also presented verbatim. No formal conclusions are drawn. The intention is to provoke contemplation of how the process of returning to Nepal can enliven memory and transform the personal relationship with place.
Johnston’s literary project is called Ten Cities: The Past Is Present. In this endeavour he revisits ten sites in each of ten cities that have had a formative impact on his life. He explores the ways that the sensory experience of a site can enliven memories that would otherwise remain dormant, and the ways that past and present experience can engage in a dialogue with each other. Kathmandu is one of those ten cities and the focal point for the current paper. The presentation at this conference will be accompanied by a literary performance event of Johnston’s creative work in Kathmandu but not part of the conference itself.
The paper will also draw from relevant literature in the social sciences, arts and humanities as well as other creative works in a range of media dealing with memory and place.