National Geographic Presents: Living Goddesses

Presented by National Geographic

Curated by Ken Geiger

Featuring: Stephanie Sinclair

In the Kathmandu Valley young Newari girls called kumaris are worshipped as omnipotent deities. These prepubescent girls (in Nepali the word “kumari” means “virgin girl”) are glorified as living goddesses for years at time and are believed to have powers of prescience and the ability to cure the sick (particularly those suffering from blood disorders), fulfill specific wishes, and bestow blessings of protection and prosperity. Above all, they’re said to provide an immediate connection between this world and the divine and to generate in their devotees maitri bhavana—a spirit of loving-kindness toward all. This photographic essay, created for National Geographic, is a rare look into the world of a living goddess.

A National Geographic photographer for the past 10 years, Stephanie Sinclair is known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. She has photographed the defining conflicts of the past decade with fearless persistence. Although she has covered the dramatic events of war, her most arresting works confront the everyday lives of young girls. Sinclair is also the Founding Executive Director of Too Young to Wed, a nonprofit providing visual evidence of the human rights challenges faced by girls and women around the world. Using the power of visual storytelling, Too Young To Wed aims to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage worldwide.

Sinclair’s honors for this project include three World Press Photo awards and exhibitions in 27 countries including prestigious venues such as at the United Nations (2012, 2014) and the Whitney Biennial (2010) in New York.