The duo’s passionate project to depict Nepal visually

The duo’s passionate project to depict Nepal visually

Manisha Maharjan and John Maharjan of Tagilai
Manisha Maharjan and John Maharjan, founders of Tagilagi.

There is a story in every nook and corner of the country, within every person and the ancient traditions and culture that one follows. Through these stories people connect, create memories and stand out from the crowd. Manisha Maharjan and John Maharjan aim to be a part of these stories through their project Tagilagi. They’ve found a simple and affordable way to bring these narratives to life.

With the world in lockdown due to the Covid pandemic, Manisha dedicated her free time to conducting in-depth research on various topics of her choice, with a special focus on local culture. She began working on her idea of ​​creating videos highlighting and celebrating the vibrant local Newa culture she had grown up admiring and celebrating.

Manisha and John have known each other for more than 10 years. While John was completing his academic degree, Manisha was researching which aspects of culture to explore first and writing emails to several popular vloggers and YouTubers who already had a presence in the digital world.

In 2021, Manisha started her first video-based project during the Dashain-Tihar festive season.

Out of hundreds of emails she was able to write, Arab YouTuber Joe Hattab accepted her invitation and together they produced a video about the unique tradition of the living goddess Kumari. His video received millions of views, giving them the motivation to continue with their project Taglaji.

Collaborate and celebrate

Manisha with YouTuber Joe Hattab.  Photo courtesy: Tagilagi
Manisha with YouTuber Joe Hattab. Photo courtesy: Tagilagi

“We always wanted to be travel vloggers, or at least lean towards exploring this kind of storytelling. But we also knew that we weren’t ready artistically.” So we decided to go the collaborative route and invite famous storytellers to experience Nepal, Newa culture and storytelling. On a global scale,” says Manisha, talking about the aim of the project.

In just two years, Manisha and John have made great progress and produced dozens of documentaries with different international YouTubers and storytellers. Even with a zero budget, the duo achieved everything through collaboration. They have also gained recognition in Nepal, where the Lalitpur Metropolitan City has recognized their efforts in promoting Newa culture.

“The initial research focused on uncovering the different aspects surrounding the kumari, exploring questions around her identity, the significance behind her selection, and the cultural context within indigenous communities,” she says.

The duo completed two projects with Khaled Al Ameri from Dubai, one of which featured Kumari. Besides, they also worked on three videos about travel and food in Nepal with Qasim Hato from Jordan.

Manisha says they named their project “Tajilagi” because they aimed not only to explore places but also to preserve and celebrate the essence of local traditions through intense collaborative efforts.

“Tajilagi in Nepal means culture and customs in Bassa,” she says.

Tagilaji is one of the founders of YouTubers Kasoest
Tagilaji is one of the founders of YouTubers Kasoest

Their collaborative efforts have expanded internationally, including partnerships with individuals from Spain, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, and more countries. They say it was their love of travel that fueled their desire to share the beauty of diverse cultures, and uncover hidden gems within the country.

Reflecting on their journey, the duo accepts that their dream has come true because they took a leap of faith and created a win-win situation for bloggers.

“It also gave us a kind of jumpstart on our journey and irreplaceable educational opportunities to shadow world-class storytellers, learn their way of shooting and their perspectives.”

The road certainly wasn’t paved with roses, she says.

A path to learning

Inviting international creators certainly gave them a better idea, however, the difference in cultural contexts also raised some unexpected challenges.

One of the key lessons they learned was the importance of patience while waiting for creators to respond to their initial emails. In addition, they realized that not everyone would be willing to work for free, relying only on good faith.

“When we reached out to NAS Daily, we got a response saying that we should sponsor his journey. He was on a different level but we wanted to learn from him but that didn’t happen,” says Manisha.

The team was thrilled when their project gained momentum. However, in the comments section of a video featuring Kumari, viewers expressed that the tradition seemed restrictive to some, leading to many negative comments due to cultural differences.

“The presentation in the said video also did not justify what we wanted to portray, and failed to send the intended message,” she says.

Manisha says that despite feedback that there may be a disconnect, whether due to presentation or presentation, the team remains committed to showcasing our culture globally.

“It’s a delicate balance between staying true to tradition while making it accessible to a global audience.”

Learning from this, and to counter negative representation, they have now begun signing contracts with fellow creators and exercising a measure of control over content publishing.

“We aim to maintain a positive discourse, and these contracts have proven effective in discouraging unwarranted comments. Now, we engage more and look at the video before we post it,” says John.

Manisha with YouTuber Kassim Hato.  Photo courtesy: Tagilagi
Manisha with YouTuber Kassim Hato. Photo courtesy: Tagilagi

The young duo doesn’t get any incentives to do this either. However, the duo received some unexpected rewards after completing the project, whether in the form of money, tools, or even a special shout of gratitude.

“Monetary gains were never the primary focus; “Instead, the focus was on building relationships, networking, and learning from influential people who also served as great mentors to us,” says John.

Other logistical challenges continued for Manisha and John.

“Nepal is one of the cheapest countries to visit and stay in, and this encourages them to come here. But the recent rise in prices for tourists has remained a concern, and the growing sensitivity around culture also poses some challenges,” says Manisha.

They say some creators wanted to use drones, which got them into trouble as well.

“One needs permission to use drones, especially at heritage sites. “Flying for a minute or so almost got us into trouble, but the authorities understood the situation and it didn’t escalate,” says John.

While the government recognizes youth initiatives, they have not found the right project or motivation to expand their projects through local cooperation.

Stay tuned for more

Manisha Maharjan and John Maharjan, founders of Tagilagi.
Manisha Maharjan and John Maharjan, founders of Tagilagi.

Despite the logistical challenges, they note that the impact of Kumari’s videos has inspired individuals to explore the inner temple shrines in Patan and be close to Newa culture.

However, although they have worked with foreign YouTubers, they have not yet worked with Nepalese YouTubers. While they explore more collaborations with European creatives, the duo says they are open to working with local creators as well.

“We are still facing some resistance, but if things clear up, we can collaborate with local content creators,” says Manisha.

In addition to creating locally engaging content, they engaged two women’s groups, empowering them to showcase local venues and act as guides for authentic dining experiences, including Honasha and other restaurants, which have received great recognition abroad.

“Bhaktapur is also full of vibrant festivals, so we next plan to explore the cultural richness there,” hints Manisha about the projects under Tagilagi.

In addition to their cultural projects, the duo envisioned the Green Gold Project, which revolves around recycling hemp and cotton to produce environmentally friendly products. To demonstrate their commitment to further exploring the Haitian system, Manisha and John expressed their commitment to cooperating with experts and local authorities.

The next step for Tagilagi, according to John and Manisha, involves creating their own YouTube channel, drawing on the experience gained through learning directly from industry experts. They aim to grow their skills and knowledge, pave their way in the world of storytelling, and put Nepal on the map for a global audience.

(Tags for translation) English News Online: English Edition

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