(An exhibition of eight contemporary artists from Nepal curated by Sangeeta Thapa and Ditte Marie Seeberg)
Hit Man Gurung
from the series “I Have to Feed Myself, My Family and My Country...”
‘Mom has a tragic story’
‘Everyday at the Airport’
‘ The Blank Frame’
Hit Man Gurung's series 'I Have to Feed Myself, My Family and My Country...' address the phenomenon of transitory Nepalese labourers who leave their families and country behind to join the work forces of foreign countries. Thousands of workers leave Nepal every month to the Middle East, East Asia and other countries, many are injured or die away from home due to substandard working conditions. International migration has increased exponentially since the civil war, leaving a generational gap that affects a sense of community, the passing on of knowledge and economic well being. Posing figures against stark, minimal backgrounds, Gurung's paintings address the social, political and emotional impact of low-income labour migration. Gurung conducted research throughout Nepal, meeting with families who had suffered the loss or injury of family members, documenting their experiences through videos and collecting data and objects including passports and identity cards. His multi-media works highlight both the emotional impact and the dramatic socio-economic changes that such a mass migration has caused.
Text: APT8, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
"Chal-ne-Chitra" - Mekh Limbu
Many houses in the Thulo Byasi settlement collapsed after Nepal earthquake 2015. The community sought refuge in open grounds and in fields for weeks after the disaster.
The Artree team worked closely with the community and conducted art therapy activities for children. During these interactions, it became apparent that different children were dealing with the disaster differently. Suprim (12 years old) and Subina (8 years old) both lived at the campsite in the wake of the quake. Together, they participated in many of the activities. When Subina returned with her family to their house and Suprim stayed back, their drawings began diverging. Subina’s drawings were positive; she focused on her dreams to travel, her wishes to be part of the ArTree activities and to be able to play with other children at the camp. On the other hand, Suprim often drew his surrounding with cracked and collapsed structures. He drew empty schools and classrooms. His expressions generally had a melancholic undertone. Subina and Suprim’s drawings from the activities were animated by artist Mekh Limbu, essentially juxtaposing the two children’s experiences. By working with the sketches, Limbu was able to preserve the sense of innocence, yet provide an insightful look at the way the earthquake affected different families.
"Weaving the Story of my Heart" - Sheelasha Rajbhandari
Weaving the Story of My Heart is a collaborative art project coordinated and supervised by Sheelasha Rajbhandari. The project was conceptualized in the aftermath of the disastrous April 25, 2015 earthquake. Ten female community members from Thulo Byasi, an ancient town in Bhaktapur city, participated in the art project. All the participating women had lost their houses after the 7.8 magnitude quake which had its epicenter in central Nepal. The earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured close to 22,000; hundreds and thousands lost their homes and properties.
The earthquake almost flattened the once-thriving Thulo Byasi community; most of its old mud-brick houses collapsed. But the effect of the catastrophe, however, was beyond physical destruction. When ArTree members started working with the community days after the quake, they found that the people were deeply distressed. The women, in particular, were in an extremely vulnerable position. Since the Thulo Byasi community is patriarchal, most of the women were housewives; most had hardly ventured outside their homes to explore the world. For them, their destroyed houses and their devastated community signified much more. It was as if they had lost everything they knew and cared for in their lives. After the disaster, the women were traumatized and many suffered from depression.
Most of these Thulo Byasi women are skilled knitters. They work at home, supplying a range of knitted wear to various exporters. Like many other women employed in the home-based worker industry, the women of Byasi contribute to Nepal’s burgeoning textile handicraft export in their own ways. In the foreign markets, these handicrafts are marketed as rare luxury goods and are appreciated for their artisan qualities. However, the women and the community members view their work as something menial, something they do just to pass time or earn loose change.
After discovering these refined skills among the Byasi women, Sheelasha began encouraging them to use their skills to cope with their stress and gain self confidence. After the earthquake, over a span of six months, Rajbhandari facilitated discussions and workshops with the women. Collaboratively, all ten women knitted their self-portraits with black and white wool. For them, black and white were the only colors that suited their chaotic circumstances. However, the color blue symbolizes hope. One of the women had shared that the earthquake had been extremely disturbing; the weeks afterwards were unstable due to continual aftershocks, buildings kept collapsing. There was blood, screams and dust all over the place. The sky was the only part that seemed peaceful. So she would look up whenever she could. The large portrait at the center of the artwork is a portrait of this particular woman. The background is a patchwork of various hues of blue. The smaller portraits are presented inside ornate golden frames in order to emphasize the important roles women play in their families and societies, as well as in the country’s economy, a fact that is often ignored.
The portraits were originally exhibited as part of ArTree Nepal’s “12 Baisakh, Post-earthquake Community Art Project” inside the small corrugated tin and old timber temporary shelter that was shared by four of these women.