BHAKTA BAHADUR
SARKI

MUKHIYA RA MUKHIYANI
Enamel paint on wood
2021

Courtesy of the artist 

The anthropomorphic wooden sculptures of the Karnali region serve as protective fgures, often commissioned by households to mitigate potential harm from evil spirits and ill-wishers. Certain sculptures are also placed at bridges, known as sangu. Constructed communally by villagers, sangus are wooden cantilever structures adorned with carvings and fgures. Historically, simple geometric shapes were carved to represent a kalash, a ceremonial water vessel. At times, wooden fgures were o fered at the entry and exit points of bridges. In the 20th century, carvers began to depict speci fc fgures in Nepali history, such as kings, queens, politicians, and soldiers. The Sinja Valley in Jumla is dotted with these richly decorated sangus.

Most carvers come from the Dalit community; some are self-taught and others learn the craft from their parents and elders. While few pro ft from their commissions, artists continue their practice as a form of devotion to local deities, or as a form of responsibility towards their larger kin networks. Bhakta Bahadur Sarki is one such artist, and despite his skills and commitment to his craft, he has often faced restrictions in entering temples and sites of worship due to his caste.

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