“The good part was the food was always amazing, the bad part was that my parents were working all the time.” Tenzing Dakpa was brought up in a hotel built by his parents in the 1950s when they migrated from Tibet to Sikkim in north-east India. “They started a small restaurant at first, and over the years the floors above were built to accommodate rooms for guests. My brother and I grew up together with the hotel.”
As a family-run business, Dakpa and his brother were expected to help out in the kitchen, which was managed by their mother, while their father looked after the restaurant floor and hotel guests.
In 2004, Dakpa moved to New Delhi to study graphic design, where he first became interested in photography. “Photography allowed me to engage with the world around me, and find my place within it,” he says. “In a tough city like New Delhi, the process helped me identify and locate my life and experiences.”
He now lives between New Delhi and Goa, and is the only member of his family who no longer works at the hotel. “I became interested in making these photographs because in my mind it reconciled with a feeling of loss,” he says.
Over multiple visits, Dapka produced The Hotel, a series that will be exhibited at Peckham24 during Photo London, as well as in a solo show at Indigo+Madder, also in London, later this month. The project is also due to be published by Steidl next year.
Migration and spaces of comfort are common themes in Dakpa’s work. In this project, the idea of the hotel as a temporary place where strangers come and go is contrasted with the idea of it being a family home. In the images, a sense of unease battles feelings of familiarity.
Dapka’s own journey however is not the only act of migration, or experience of belonging and un-belonging, that the series references. His parents fled their home in Tibet in the 1950s after the country was annexed by the Chinese communist regime, and for Dapka, this history of exile is embedded into the home, and hotel, that they built – it is a symbol of survival.
The Hotel simultaneously emits a sense of intimacy and detachment and the photographs are imagined as both a source for memories of his family’s exile, and Dapka’s own experience of belonging and identity.
The Hotel will be exhibited as part of Peckham24 in London from 17 – 19 May 2019. A solo show at Indigo+Madder in London will take place between 30 May and 22 June 2019.