A farmer in Bhutan, Hasta Dhital saw his neighbors arrested after the government began expelling ethnic Nepalese. When the army came to his house, Dhital escaped through a rear window.
Man Chhetri remembers celebrating festivals in her small village. After she fled to a refugee camp in Nepal, she made extra money to support her family by weaving traditional Nepali hats.
Suk Bhattarai was a successful businessman. When all of his partners were arrested and one was killed by the Bhutanese army, Bhattarai left the country, giving up all his assets.
Each portrait of a Bhutanese-Nepali refugee in the Ohio History Center in the Midwestern city of Columbus is accompanied by a personal story.
“Everywhere we go, we lose our history,” said Tara Dhungana. “If you go back to Bhutan and just try to find out anything, I doubt there is anything. We stayed in Nepal for 20 years as refugees, you rarely find anything in the archives.”
The portraits and stories on display preserve something of what has been lost.
“It stays as history, so that our children’s generation can come see and read about their parents’, grandparents’ experience. So I feel very proud of this,” said Dhungana, who says he tries not to miss Bhutan.
Dhungana’s portrait and story is one of the 20 in the display. Now a restaurant owner in Columbus, he sees the exhibit as a way to recapture lost history.
This is just what documentary photographer Tariq Tarey wanted. He captured the images, while his partner interviewed the subjects and wrote the narratives.
“I wanted to highlight their struggles from their homeland in Bhutan, the journey through on Nepal in the refugee camp, and then coming to central Ohio, building their lives back, contributing to society and making Ohio a vibrant place,” Tarey said.
WATCH: Photo Exhibit Recaptures Bhutanese-Nepali Lost History
The portraits are on display in a history museum to make the point that Bhutanese-Nepali refugees, while they may have lost their previous history, are now part of Ohio’s history. Some 23,000 Bhutanese-Nepali refugees live in central Ohio.
“They are changing the way that Ohio looks and there are new businesses,” said Katie Poole, manager of the Ohio History Center. “They are now part of Ohio; they are part of Ohio’s story. And as the History Center, we find it is really important to make sure that we’re sharing their stories.”
Long-time Columbus resident Jim Gutekunst bore witness.
“I’ll read each page,” he said, “as I see just to educate myself to understand their struggles.”
Since 2008, more than 92,000 refugees living in Nepal have been resettled in the U.S.