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Visiting France

Nepal smiles in face of earthquake in Omar Havana’s photos

media One of Omar Havana's photos after the Nepal earhtquake Omar Havana/Getty Images/Visa pour l'image

The Spanish-born photographer was already living in Nepal when the earthquake struck, killing 9,000 people and injuring over 20,000, in April this year. He recorded the devastation but he also photographed the reconstruction. His pictures are on show at the Visa pour l’Image festival in the southern French city of Perpignan.

When the monsoon hit in June, Nepal was in the throes of reconstructing the areas  affected by the earthquake two months earlier which had hit 14 of the country's 75 districts, including the capital Kathmandu, which was badly damaged.

In spite of grief at losing family and friends, the Nepalese people started immediately putting their homes, schools, workplaces and lives into shape. The seasonal rains have delayed their efforts. About a 1,000 people are still living in camps for the displaced which were flooded.

Photo-reporter Omar Havana was already there and still is. His exhibition at Visa pour l'image pays tribute to the people of Nepal.

The concept of reconstruction has begun, government and organisations will start to come at the end of the monsoon, sometime in September, says Omar Havana. Originally from Spain, Havana has been living in Asia for many years and in Nepal for more than a year.

He was there in April when the earthquake hit.

“The areas which have been affected are still there, the same,” he says. “I keep going back every three days to the same place to document lives. I don’t see any change. What I do see is big smiles. Since minute-one till now, it’s the people of Nepal reconstructing their country.”

Some of the photos in the Visa pour l’Image exhibition seem familiar, having illustrated news articles at the time of the quake, showing grief, emergency workers and local people pulling bodies from rubble, statues of Hindu gods intact amid disorderly piles of red brick and dust.

Others, taken two months later in June 2015, show children under small tents wearing their school uniforms, working in this makeshift classroom, tables and chairs set up outside a crumbled building on which hangs a bright banner announcing the “opening soon” of a Chinese restaurant. Havana has also photographed the “big smiles”.

Having experienced the disaster and worked through it with the local people, Havana feels the credit for the real reconstruction lies with the Nepalese, who are picking up the pieces of their tattered lives, and badly-affected economy.

“I’m a messenger for the Nepalese,” says Havana who calls his exhibition and his work a tribute to Nepal. “My photos are here but some Nepalese photographers, mostly locals or others based there did an incredible job, better than me. They left their cameras and helped people trapped in the debris, pulling bodies out etc. This exhibition is in my name but I think it should be called ‘Nepal’, as a tribute to the Nepalese people and their strength, and not Omar Havana.”
 

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