Surveying Kathmandu’s Rapid Urbanisation and its Social Implications
Portraying the coming of age of young workers employed in building sites across Nepal’s capital city, Daisy Yang offers a reflection upon the labour hierarchy and the common conception of masculinity.
Embedded in the hills and overlooked by the Himalayas, Kathmandu begins its annual overhaul to catch up to the global definition of urbanisation at the end of each monsoon season. Teenage boys, on the verge of manhood, rush into the city from villages all over the country to assert their independence and ability as a breadwinner for their families. Many come with one goal in mind: to out-compete one another in the latest fashion, hairstyle, and gadgets. The boys arrive by the busload; naive and aloof. In the city, manual workers are in high demand as housing and city projects mushroom overnight.
The Becoming explores the lives of adolescent construction workers as they help to modernise the Nepalese capital. Their rites of passage into adulthood mirror the rapid expansion of the city that surrounds them. The many stories from this series reflect upon the social construction of masculinity, a dynamic layer that is essential for more balanced conversations on the topic of gender equality. What is the hierarchy of masculinity? How do adolescents fit within this and how do their rites of passage into this system impact wider social structures?
With these images and interviews gathered, The Becoming reflects upon patriarchy’s impact on young men and their formative identities. The normalised violence within the male hierarchy, subtle and often hidden, is made visible throughout the project. Young men often suffer in silence, since that is what it means to become “more masculine”, as they struggle to conform to society's preconceptions. As this violence fails to be recognised and rectified, it perpetuates into other aspects of society to create a cyclical pattern of oppression and abuse.
It is also paramount that we must not overlook the strength and tenacity of these young individuals. It is important to remember that this story is not just about the corruption of youth, but also about their resilience in a challenging environment. More often than not, they are proud of their independence and ability to provide. Through their continued search for freedom and validation, we catch a glimpse of our universal reality. Where will their transformation take them?
Words and Pictures by Daisy Yang.
Daisy Yang is a documentary photographer who previously honed her visualisation skill as an interior designer. After studying in New York University’s Human Rights and Photography program in 2012, she has devoted her time to studying and documenting social issues, placing a focus on issues pertaining to migration, gender, and the formation of identity. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.
This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.