In Nepal, discussions about going abroad or having family or friends living abroad are common topics in everyday conversations. It is prevalent for individuals to share their aspirations or experiences related to seeking opportunities abroad.
These conversations are not only confined to rural areas where there are hardly any young men left as most of them have gone for foreign employment. While looking at the government data, the country has issued 5.7 million labour permits since 2006 and this trend is persisting, which eventually means the nation may face adverse consequences.
With this trend and remittance coming in, it is not unusual to see rapid changes in the lifestyle and the environment in Nepali society.
These very inevitable changes in lifestyle are causing the degradation or extinction of Nepali indigenous culture, tradition, knowledge and way of living. This, along with the Nepali society transitioning towards Western-driven modernity, has triggered artist Mann Gurung for his exhibition Lost in Transition II, which is being showcased at Siddhartha Art Gallery.
Lost in Transition II is Mann Gurung’s continuation to address issues related to changes in Nepali society, which he exhibited in 2021 for the first time.
In the exhibition
As you enter the gallery, you will first notice a huge painting, which is a portrait of a group of women and children against the coloured logos of firms.
This simple-looking composition lets you see multiple realities of Nepal—poverty, hope, migrant labourers and absence of a husband, father, son or mother—and lets you ponder upon the nation and the need for urgency to address it.
He has used acrylic and mostly oil on canvas and used sepia hue in all his paintings that reflect the style of the 19 th century photographers. He says that his paintings are the record of the remaining indigenous lifestyle and his tribute to the men and women.
In the exhibition, he has focused on their psychological condition which can be seen through the facial feature in the paintings. He has painstakingly shown the loneliness and resilience through their faces.
There are a total of 24 paintings where the elderly men and women are seen in their traditional attires, however, the children are seen in modern clothing.
Capturing the state of people from remote corners
“Through ‘Lost in Transition II’, I want to visually capture the vulnerable state of the people of these remote corners who were caught off guard by changes they did not choose,” Gurung says.
He says that he tried to capture the visual expression of these people through paintings.
“I take it as my artistic duty to represent the people of these remote villages archiving their images in visual form, for they are the generation retaining our culture, tradition and identity,” he adds.
This exhibition represents people from the villages of Khorla, Uhiya, Singla, Laprak, Yamgaun and Runchet of the Northern Gorkha along the Budhi Gandaki river. He says, “In order to capture the lives of these people, I travelled from one village to another, knocking door to door and collecting visual data. As of now, few of the characters represented in this exhibition are no longer with us.”
The exhibition began on July 3 and continues till July 18.