Hit Man Gurung
I Have to Feed Myself, My Family and My Country...
Hit Man Gurung’s series I Have to Feed Myself, My Family and My Country… addresses labor migration, a phenomenon prevalent in South Asian countries like Nepal. The laborers, most of whom are young and middle-aged, come from marginalized and underprivileged backgrounds. They leave their families back in the homeland with the dream of pursuing a better life for themselves and their families. Sadly, migrant laborers are often subjected to exploitation. Abuse, slavery and untimely deaths are common among migrant workers. Gurung’s various media artworks are also a reflection on Nepal’s rapidly changing socio-political, socio-economic scene, the ten year Nepalese Civil War (1996-2006), unstable governments and the impact it has had on personal and professional lives of the citizens. In parallel the strong impact of global capitalism, the dramatic economic boom in Gulf countries/East Asia and their crazy investment in infrastructure development caused high demand of cheap labour workers, consequently contributing to various patterns of mass migrations. According to statistics, this recent wave of migration in Nepal has been the highest since the time of the two world wars.
During the world wars, hundreds of thousands of Nepali men were mobilized to fight for the British Army as Gurkhas. Those who joined the army almost exclusively belonged to the marginalized ethnic indigenous groups like the Gurung, Magar, Rai and Limbu. Hit Man belongs to one of these ethnic groups; men from his community have been serving as Gurkhas for several generations. However, the pattern of migration has now changed. People from his and other ethnic groups are migrating as temporary laborers; most hold menial jobs that do not pay very well. Nepal’s economy is heavily dependent on the remittance sent by these workers. Nepal is one of the top nations in terms of foreign remittances as a percentage of GDP. Yet, the government has not given serious attention to the rights of migrant workers; neither has it developed better policies regarding their safety. Gurung has traveled to his ancestral homeland and different parts of the country conducting research in order to explore how the social fabric of Nepal has dramatically changed over the years because of migration.
Since 2017, Gurung with his partner Sheelasha Rajbhandari have been continuously traveling in various parts of Nepal and different countries for their long term research based collaborative project, Who Are The Heroes of Our Time? This series plays on the notion of shifting identity and belonging by interrogating the label of ‘a migrant worker’ and ‘a diaspora’ through participatory performances, visual documentation and archival approaches.