This is not just another story about migration. It is a story about those who migrate and disappear. It is a story about the families who stop receiving phone calls, captured by the Nepalese photographer Prasiit Shtapit.
Prasiit Shtapit, 29, shoots in a dark room with a flash. “A mother once told me that her family is living in the darkness, now that their son has been missing for years”. Nepalese people go to Malaysia, Japan, Saudi Arabia to work. Three to four come back every day in a coffin, according to the Nepali Times. But even more go missing. Shtapit started volunteering around Nepal after the 2015 earthquake and discovered the phenomenon of missing migrants. “I was really shocked, troubled and captivated by this fact”, the photographer tells us. “How can people just disappear without leaving a trace?” With the help of an NGO he started visiting the households of the disappeared, talking to their families, looking through the stuff they left behind.
His work documentats the limbo the families are trapped in. It is a photographic record of the lost expressions of the mothers, their letters to the disappeared, their appeals to God. Shtapit’s photos render the emotional charge of the fetishized objects that belonged to the departed sons and brothers. “Being trained as a journalist, I was taught that one must be neutral and unbiased. I do agree, but it isn’t humanly possible to not be touched by these stories. Especially for the fact that they had a lot of harrowing tales of could-bes and maybes. Uncertainty was the most disturbing part, and also the feeling which I personally fear the most. The families left behind only had hope”.
Images from: “The Mysterious Case of Pushpa and Others” © Prasiit Sthapit