The Wait

Stephen Dock

2018 - Ongoing

There is death, wounds, a war that we hope will come to an end. Then come a peace treaty, a surrender. The fighting stops. Remain the wait and anguish. The reflex to go to the window hoping to see the disappeared go home. He does not come back. They look for him in crowds, knowing that it's useless. They see a familiar figure, think to recognize in a cafe, in the street. He is not there. They deal with it, convince themselves that nothing has happened to him.

As a result of my work on wars and the structural violence they engender, I want to develop a project that focuses on the aftermath, the cases of the missing and their loved ones, captive in this never-ending wait. Without answers, how to mourn ? In most cases, relatives are ready to drop the charges against those responsible in exchange for an answer, the remains of the loved one. How can parents forgive ? How much this state of uncertainty can eat up ?

Mother, father, wife, husband, sister, brother or children. They live against the flow. Everyone forgets, expecting to turn the page as fast as possible. An empty bed or room, the clothes hanging in the wardrobe. Women often bear the burden. Mothers die before they get the truth, children continue the search process. It is passed on from one generation to another. The family keeps building on the absence, the lack of a foundation.

Started in Nepal and Northern Ireland, I will continue this project in Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Spain. This work must be a sensitive, palpable approach, mixing photography, archival documents, sound and video. It intends to question the weight of disappearances in history, within the family, the psychological pain of relatives, who fear that the loved one is forgotten, and disappears permanently.

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  • Rama Mali holds a portrait of her disappeared brother Rajendra Mali, in the village of Thecho, south of Kathmandu, Nepal. He was taken away by the army several times for having an interest in Maoism. The third time, he has been arrested in Kathmandu in 2003 and never came back.

  • Nagma Mali, 21, is sitting at her friend's house, in Thecho, south of Kathmandu. Her mother, died in childbirth. Her father, Nanda Mali, disappeared in 2004. He was involved in the Maoist party, hoping for a change for a more equitable society. He was arrested by the army and never returned home.

  • A woman is holding a leaf from a Nepalese newspaper, which tells the story of a missing man in Dulikhel. She has been collecting documents for years in order to keep a record of the disappeared.

  • Mishri Mali raised alone his two granddaughters, Nagma and Swastika Mali. They live in a dilapidated tiny house in the village of Thecho. Their mother died in childbirth and their father was taken away by the army in 2004, but never returned.

  • Portrait of Ram Prasad Acharya, who disappeared in 2003, in the village of Dharke, between the districts of Dhading and Naubise. In the middle of the night, the security forces arrested him because he was accused of being a Maoist.

  • Ruku Acharya, wife of Ram Prasad Acharya, who disappeared in 2003. She poses in her room, in her house in the village of Dharke, between the districts of Dhading and Naubise.

  • A newspaper clipping showing the faces of dozens of missing people.

  • A vest belonging to Hari Prasad Acharya, who disappeared in jail in 2003, kept by his wife. "I only ask for an answer," says his wife, Sabitra Acharya, from Dharke, a village at the crossroads of Dhading and Naubise districts.

  • Rajiv Acharya, 31, has not seen his father since a night in 2003 when he was arrested by security forces in his house of Dharke, a village at the crossroads of Dhading and Naubise districts. “We just want an answer”, says Rajiv. After his father went missing, life has been tough for the family. He was the only breadwinner.

  • A ragged poster for computing classes stuck on a wall hides a portrait, in Patan, Nepal.

  • Room of Sabrita Acharya, whose husband went missing in 2003. Since the disappearance she has struggled to survive. “I used to look at the window, hoping for him to return”.

  • Portrait of Hari Prasad Acharya. He was arrested in 2003 when he was with Maoist friends. He spent six months in prison, then disappeared in Nepalese jails.

  • Assembly of photographs of state allowance beneficiary cards. They allow holders to receive financial compensation from the state for the disappearance of their loved ones.

  • Stacks of files concerning cases of disappearances, in a cabinet of the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. She is responsible for recording family queries and accurate descriptions of missing persons. But neither interrogations nor excavations of the supposed burial places of the disappeared have yet been conducted.

  • Swastika, 16 and her older sister, Nagma Mali, 21. Their mother died in childbirth and their father was taken away by the army in 2004, but never returned home. They were raised by their grandmother, who is sick. Nagma Mali has to take care of them and the dilapidated tiny house. Today, Nagma wants to be a journalist, but as a kid, she dreamed of becoming a police office to look for her father. Swastika would like to be a doctor.

  • A view of the forest, from the concrete monument built by the families of the missing in the village of Thecho, south of Kathmandu. They built it with their own hands to remember their loved ones.

  • Deba Kumari and her husband, Narayan Prasad Kafle, a couple of farmers, lost their two sons. The first disappeared in the hands of the army in 2004, he was part of the Maoist student union and made bombs for the rebels. The second went to work in India but never returned. "We still hope to find our son, but we do not expect anything from the government," says the couple who lives in Dharke, a village at the crossroads of Dhading and Naubise districts.

  • A forested slope in the army-protected Shivapuri National Park, near Kathmandu, is a possible burial or cremation site of civilians who disappeared during the country’s decade-long civil war. Prisoners may have been burned by the soldiers. 49 people disappeared from army barracks in 2003. Soil samples were analyzed in Finland and revealed the existence of human remains.