Asian Heritage Month-CFACI | Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage (VMACCH)

Kiran Ambwani

Kiran Ambwani

Arts & Expression, South Asian, Visual Art, Photography

Passionate about the visual documentation of people, things, spaces and moments, Kiran is a freelance photographer based in Montréal. Kiran’s images reflect a sensitivity shaped by her background in anthropology and her travels. Driven by a curiosity for different cultures, she has explored, among others, the lives of Tibetan monks in exile, the survivors of child trafficking in India, the workers of Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, the tea pickers in South India, and the indigenous women of Nepal.

Kiran has collaborated on several humanitarian projects with NGOs in Canada, India and Nepal. Along with publishing her work, she has also participated in group and solo exhibitions in Canada. Born in 1978 in Lucknow, India, Kiran is a graduate of McGill University and the Dawson Institute of Photography.


Photo Galleries

Lives of the Mountain Women of Jumla, Nepal

Jumla is a beautiful remote mountain district of Nepal where culture has remained untouched by modern day civilization. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most excluded regions of the country, with limited access to basic amenities like education, food, healthcare, land and basic human rights. Here in the midst of western Nepal’s stark beauty, cultural heritage and diversity, there is a grinding, hopeless poverty and dependence. The ones who suffer most are the women because of their prescribed roles, subjugation, illiteracy and the absence of state health services and outreach in the district. Despite some efforts to address gender issues and improve women’s basic needs, Jumla women are still among the poorest and the most marginalized in Nepal. Indigenous women and women from low caste groups (Dalit) have even less access to education, healthcare, employment and political power. In these mountain regions of Nepal, poverty, political conflict, insufficient infrastructure, few economic opportunities, high vulnerability to natural hazards, degradation of the ecosystem, and the migration of men for work all have a heavy impact on the lives of the women of Jumla.

It is encouraging to note that teachers, health care workers, healers, human rights activists, community leaders, reporters and managers of women’s cooperatives are conduits of social change. These inspirational women are the future of a “new Nepal,” as it emerges from 11 years of conflict and decades of monarchy, offering hope of dignity, equality, wealth distribution, and access to basic resources. Achieving gender equality and empowering women is of utmost necessity for building healthier, better educated, more peaceful and prosperous societies. All photographs by Kiran Ambwani.

Dans l’ombre du Tibet: Un culture en exil | In the Shadow of Tibet: A Culture in Exile

Since the invasion in 1949 by the Chinese, Tibet has become a country in peril. Its people have been persecuted, its land desecrated and its religious traditions all but annihilated. Yet the Tibetan culture has proved extraordinarily resilient and inspirational, steeped as it is in a Buddhist philosophy emphasizing compassion and forgiveness above all else.

In Tibet, spiritual training and practice, and even learning the Tibetan language, are severely restricted by the Chinese. Much of Tibetan culture has now had to take refuge outside its homeland. In their refugee settlements in India, they have established Tibetan language schools and cultural institutions, reconstructed several monasteries, and established large monastic universities to help preserve their cultural identity. For Tibetans, Buddhism permeates through everyday life and participating in sacred activities like praying, reciting scriptures, making mandalas and hanging prayer flags is believed to create a positive collective karma which overcomes epidemics, hunger, war and other negative effects hindering peace and harmony in the world.

My first awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people came from a fellow Tibetan student in India, a refugee. It was then that I realized the strength of the Tibetan people. I am inspired by their perseverance to safeguard their cultural heritage in exile. Through this photo reportage, I would like to highlight the resilience of the Tibetan culture despite the cultural genocide that it faces. In my ongoing odyssey to capture the spirit of the Tibetan people, I have travelled to Tibetan settlements, children’s villages and monasteries in Dharamsala, Bylakuppe, Ladakh and Nepal and hope to travel one day to a Free Tibet. All photographs by Kiran Ambwani.

The Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage (VMAACH) was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy.