Nomadic mothers. In the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys of Nepal, landless families, coming from the southern Tarai plains, live in tents on waste ground. They lead a semi-nomadic life, moving from one place to another in search of work and income. While their husbands are away for weeks working as labourers or itinerant sellers, the women live in the tents and look after the children. For three years, I have accompanied these families and tried to understand their everyday concerns. The photographs presented here are part of a body of work which focuses on the question of nomadic motherhood.
Nomadic mothers. 2012-2014. In the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys of Nepal, landless families, coming from the Tarai plains, live in tents on waste ground. Divided into different clans, they speak Bhojpuri (a southern dialect) and lead a semi-nomadic life, moving from one place to another in search of work and income. Their camps are set up in the city outskirts and are exposed to harsh conditions during the monsoon and winter. For three years, in six successive camps, I have followed the path of these families and tried to depict the fragility of their existence. It has been a path of laughter and tears, during which initial wariness evolved step by step into trust. These families, often rejected by the population, come from the Sarlahi district and belong to two castes of carpenters and carvers which are related by marriage: the Barhai and the Kapadi. With the shortage of wood and the restrictions on timber harvesting, they have resigned themselves to the sale of cloth and to a life in constant motion. Nevertheless, they remain staunchly independent. The photographs presented here are part of a body of work which focuses on the daily life in the camps and, more specifically, on the question of nomadic motherhood. They depict the everyday concerns of the nomadic mothers who appear to be at the same time affectionate, proud, humorous and quarrelsome. While their husbands are away for weeks working as labourers or itinerant sellers, they live in the tents and look after the children who don't attend school. During the day, two or three mothers remain at the camp while the others walk barefoot in the neighbouring city. Some of them beg for food, others collect old cloth that they wash and cut into pieces to be sold to the mechanics. Meanwhile in the camp, the older children take part in the day-to-day chores (collecting firewood, cleaning, cooking). By nightfall, they wait eagerly for their mothers and celebrate their return with joy. Having stayed in the camps in the good and the bad times, I discovered that the hardships endured by these mothers and children strengthen their bonds and their complicity. They both experience a profound sense of belonging but also a feeling of isolation and abandonment. Their despair is silent but deeply felt, especially when they face dramatic events, such as the illness or death of their loved ones.