• Michelle Carlos

The Plight of the Bee

Updated: Jul 1

As a submission to an online exhibition entitled “In Limbo” at Trent Gallery Pretoria, I thought the idea of a bee finding its way through a labyrinth to its target, the sweet golden nectar, is just befitting the theme—a metaphor to my life as an expat stuck in foreign affairs bureaucracy in this time of uncertainty.

"The Plight of the Bee" | Acrylic gouache, real silver and gold leaf on paper | 2020

The Bee

As I sip my last cup of tea just after breakfast and after my husband and I concluded our discussion about our future specifically our expat status here in South Africa, I was as usual left frustrated. First, our visas have expired and could not do anything about them until the national lockdown restrictions have eased for embassies, government agencies as well as international travel. We were fortunate enough to be both at home, healthy and not elsewhere at the strike of midnight on the 26th of March. Second, being Filipino and holding a Philippine passport, I am not allowed to enter the European Union despite being married to a German until EU opens its borders again. I will not go into so much details about all of these. It is suffice to say that we are at the moment in a limbo. Just waiting.



At that moment, I noticed a bee trying to fly through the glass baluster on our balcony. I don’t understand why we have a constant bee visitor anyway since I don’t have flowering plants up here on the 11th floor. But there it is, fighting its way out in several futile attempts.


In a way, I’m like this bee... trapped in a transient country with crazy regulations for expats like us. At the same time, the country where we should reenter after the contract ends has closed its borders to non-EU citizens. In order to live in South Africa, I gave up the chance to behold a permanent residence in Germany. Now my Filipino passport has become more of a burden for it is always subject to bureaucratic chaos. If you look at it, it’s really just glass between limbo and freedom (most government agency transactions happen between glass windows). But then, there’s always a gap in between and after all the attempts and struggles, like this bee, I might be able to finally fly away perhaps back home or the next one.


However during this time, one also starts to look more within, and wonders where one really wants to live and have a permanent base if I were to establish myself as a full time artist. So the labyrinth, as a symbol of finding peace and center, in this case has a double meaning.





Exhibition Details

This painting is available as a limited print edition at the Trent Gallery Pretoria.


Title: “The Plight of the Bee” - A metaphor to my life as an expat stuck in a transient country and foreign affairs bureaucracy.

Medium: Giclée print with gold leaf on paper, limited edition of 1.

Size: 59.4cm X 84.1cm

Selling price: R12 000 (unframed)


An online event hosted by Trent Gallery Facebook Page is taking place on the 19th of June until July 1st, 2020 featuring 21 artists in South Africa.


Please contact Stuart, Elizabeth or Claire for details: Call 082 923 2551





#art #painting #artinthetimeofcorona

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