When Are Water Sprouts (Hiti) Part of Basic Needs Provision and When Do They Become Cultural Heritage?
Water sprouts (Hiti) are ubiquitous build structures omnipresent in the Kathmandu Valley. For generations, people depended on these stone sprouts for their drinking water and to bath. Water and water spouts are part of religious activities and the upkeep of Hiti lies within the community. Over time, the number, size, and functionality of Hiti changed. This research contributes to the discourse of vernacular everyday Heritage. The paper explores the gendered everyday usage of Hiti as urban basic needs provision. Beyond the functional value of meeting household needs, the paper asks, how does a Hiti take up culture meanings to become part of urban heritage that communities strive to protect through means that, among others, include activism? As such, the paper discusses the Newa everyday life vis-à-vis Hiti as an everyday functional space, (in)tangible heritage as well as a mode of activism under the larger ambit of the Newa heritage movement.
For the qualitative study, eight Hiti were studied through participant observation. The Hiti were chosen on the basis of aesthetics, functionality, user friendliness and accessibility. Formal and informal interviews were conducted with users, non-users living in the vicinity of Hiti, caretakers and ward officers. Stemming from the discourse analysis of the study we conclude that while there is a discrepancy between user needs and planning provision, Hiti have been and are today focal points of community cohesion as well as solidarity formation. This research is part of the ‘Heritage as Placemaking’ project a collaborative research project between Heidelberg University, South Asian University, SOAS and the Social Science Baha funded.
Key words: Heritage, urban, community, space, everyday life, activism, solidarity