Sandeep Shrestha, Nepal
My name is Sandeep Shrestha and I am a self-identified Queer from Nepal. By profession, I am a theater actor, writer and director. I’ve performed in several theatre plays; Mahabhoj, Three Sisters and The Laramie Project- Ten Years Later, Brief Candle, Gross Indecency. Besides performing, I’ve produced, written, and directed a few plays such as Chiso Bhanjyang, Basu-Dev, Gauthali ko biraha and a few other plays. Being an artist, I always present a unique perspective or experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience to create awareness about the ongoing odds/issues of LGBTQI individuals in our society.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Nepal has affected theater play/work due to physical distancing requirements and the closure of physical venues in Nepal. Because of COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve experienced the loss of work, income, social connections; and it affected my mental health too.
Through one of my friends, I heard about the ILGA Asia conference, which ignited my interest to join them and perform a play/act at the regional conference in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. ILGA Asia conference provided me a platform to perform/act after 2 years, and I was excited to perform before live audiences again. Along with my collaborator Samapika Gautam, I performed a play titled “Awartak” (Whirlpool) at the ILGA Asia conference on 30 November 2022. In this play, I played a gay man character, showing his struggles of being a gay man in the society. Covering the topics around discrimination, internalized oppression, mental health problems, violence and harassment, this play highlights the suffering of gay man because of the lack of acceptance in society. Bringing out gay man emotions, this play touched the soul of the audience through its intensity and heartfelt content. Our play is an unfeigned effort and highlights ongoing issues of LGBTQI individuals in Asian society. For this play, we used videos, instrumental music, excerpts from the newspaper articles, images from our friends about the violence we faced and props such as sarees and water.
Through our play/performances, I aim to mainstream LGBTQI issues and influence society to accept same-sex relations. If given the necessary support by the NGOs, CSOs or stakeholders or others, my partner and I foresee using our play as an advocacy tool at various platforms such as regional and national conferences, colleges and corporate houses in Nepal and elsewhere to create awareness about LGBTQI issues and influence society /family for the acceptance of the same-sex relationship. Through our sincere play effort, we would like to contribute to breaking the Nepali family law, which does not recognize same-sex marriages, provide equal rights to same-sex live in couples, or any form of recognition for same-sex couples.
“ILGA Asia has provided platform to the LGBTQIA++ community and artists to gather, and shed light and work together as one for the common purpose of finding equality and dignity in our society where discrimination and violence is prevailing”.
I also attended another session, ‘IAQAF Art Therapy Workshop’, which is about releasing the mental trauma and stress as queer individuals and putting it all on the canvas. This was a fun-loving workshop joined by nearly twenty people who expressed their feelings and emotions through their art/paintings.
Finally, I also made a few friends who are artists from other sub-regions: South East Asia; West Asia; East Asia. Outside the conference hours, we shared our emotions and experiences of how being an LGBTQI artist affects our opportunities. Also, we talked about possible collaborations with other artists in other sub-regions to mainstream LGBTQI issues.