"Invisible Connection II" - Mekh Limbu
(Exhibition curated by Riyas Komu)
Invisible Connection II is a visual diary that depicts an intimate father-son relationship. Limbu’s father left his family to work for a construction company in Doha, Qatar for more than two decades. Limbu’s father used to be a primary school teacher in his rural village in Dhankuta, Nepal. “I was only eight years old then,” remembered Limbu. In this autobiographical installation, the artist used 155 small and large light boxes depicting his own personal journey from a small rural village to the capital of the country; he also juxtaposed his journey to his father’s experiences in Doha in chronological order. As part of the installation, the artist used very personal belongings such as photographs from the family album, letters and audio recordings of phone conversations and other documents like passports and visa forms. The artwork demonstrated the change in the family’s physical and social structures quite vividly. In the course of 20 years, Mekh Limbu’s father visited Nepal only four times. In the meantime, Nepal went through major socio-political changes such as a civil war, the royal family massacre, the end of monarchy and the transition into a federal democracy. The country went through much upheaval, severely affecting daily lives and socio-economics. This aspect is shown in the artwork through newspaper headlines, excerpts and photographs from various news outlets. This instability in the country led to more emigration for education and employment.
“This place is like a desert with very few people. It is hard to find another Nepali here,” Limbu’s father remembered from his early years in Qatar. But Qatar also transformed dramatically during the 20-year period. The artist has captured this transformation in another adjacent wall, which is a commentary on how Qatar benefited from foreign migrant workers and rose from being a small fishing port in the middle of the desert to a massive economic hub. This was possible because of the blood and tears (and life, in many case) of migrant labourers. “My father’s life and mine diverted in different directions because of his absence for such a long time,” says Limbu. The intimacy they once shared slowly faded away, even though they both tried to keep it alive through frequent communication by means of letters and phone calls. This is a critical problem faced by many families in Nepal, a reality for millions of Nepalis who are separated from their families because they have no choice but to work abroad. The issue of international labor migration is has directly impacted the artist’s life and is tied to the lives of other families as well. Every day almost 1700 people leave Nepal to work abroad. Most of these labour migrants are young people.