Over 10 years ago, when the very first Maker Faire was held in California, there was no way of knowing that the joy of Maker Faire would spread like sunshine across the world, warming all corners of the globe, from Japan to Colombia, Singapore, Sweden, and beyond.
This weekend, we’re absolutely thrilled that Nepal is joining the Maker Movement by hosting the very first Kathmandu Mini Maker Faire (KMMF) in the mile-high city. KMMF is also the very first Faire to explicitly focus on humanitarian projects with social impact. The Faire is being organized by Nepal Communitere in conjunction with the Robotics Association of Nepal and in collaboration with Karkhana, Sattya Media Arts Collective, YUWA, Women Leaders in Technology, and Quixote’s Cove, with key support from the U.S. Embassy in Nepal and the Nepal Innovation Lab. The event will be held on the Nepal Communitere premises in Pulchowk on September 24 and 25. We spoke with Aradhana (Aru) Gurung, the production director of KMMF to learn more.
1. What was the impetus for organizing a Maker Faire in Nepal?
On April 25, 2015, the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in over 80 years killed more than 8,800 people and left 2.8 million people in need of humanitarian support. Following the immediate national and international humanitarian response, there is now a recognized need to actively reinforce efforts to further support and empower affected communities.
In the wake of this disaster, a broad range of local innovations have emerged to meet the critical needs of the communities. In addition to bringing together entrepreneurs, makers, business people, and members of international/national NGOs and government agencies, our family-friendly Faire promises an array of incredible projects and new technologies to make, see, and interact with.
2. Tell us about the Nepali Maker Summit you just held a couple of weeks ago.
The Summit was a preparatory workshop for Nepali makers. This event was thought necessary, as this would have been the first time that the majority of the makers would participate in such an event, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to get a first taste of it, but also help them prepare the best they could. We had a total of 23 makers attend, of which 14 makers are receiving mentorship to finalize their projects.
3. How and why does KMMF focus on humanitarian and social-impact projects?
The main criteria for KMMF is for the projects to serve as social innovations that serve community needs. The final list of makers is varied, and there has been a deliberate attempt to also incorporate more traditional forms of making that don’t have so much to do with technology. The need for the Faire to focus on social impact projects was because there is so much talent and innovation that has been coming out of Nepal in this context but there hadn’t been a platform to showcase that yet.
4. What are three notable humanitarian exhibits, makers, or workshops that will be at the Faire?
There are more than three notable showcases — I really wouldn’t be able to make this decision; it’d be like choosing among my children. Most of the Nepali makers who have developed amazing products don’t yet have an online presence so it would not be fair to them. We have been trying to feature makers on our Facebook page.
5. Tell us a little about the maker community in Kathmandu and the Nepal in general. Are there any makerspaces participating in the Faire?
Nepal is probably one of the few countries who has a rich and vibrant making culture that goes back to centuries ago. Families of traditional artisans still keep up the trades — these methods of making are more manual and hands-on. The first makerspace was set up in Kathmandu two years ago by a group called Karkhana, who work with children and teachers to bring innovation to education. For KMMF, Karkhana will be running a 480-square-foot makerspace for kids. There are 46 groups of makers that will participate in the Faire, a few of whom are still working on more traditional modes of making.
6. What has been the community reaction to the upcoming Faire? Is there a lot of support and enthusiasm?
The local and online communities have both been very, very supportive and inquisitive of the event and space. We’ve been hosting bimonthly happy hours at the venue to have people visit the space and witness the progress in the work that is going on.
7. What would you say uniquely defines the Nepalese maker community?
The Nepalese maker community is very open to learning new things but are also dedicated to carrying on tradition, so with making and tinkering in Nepal these days, there are a lot of opportunities for fusion, where you introduce new techniques to improve old traditional methods and not replace them.