Friday, December 14, 2007

Tibetan Refugees Paint a Life in Exile

Recently here in Aberdeen there have been many Tibetan-inspired events. Just two days ago I found myself treated to a performance by Tibetan monks from the Drepung Lumbum monastery in India (Especially good was the sacred yak dance, complete with sacred yak.) Today I visited Aberdeen Arts Centre to see an exhibition entitled "Journey into Exile". In the Arts Centre cafe the walls were lined with drawings and paintings by Tibetan Refugee children, recently arrived in Kathmandu and Dharamsala. I have stated before and shall say again, this blog has no political agenda, but exile has now become part of the history and culture of the Tibetan people, so I shall go ahead and post the few pictures I could carry on my phone. I shall include the original text given to each picture beneath them all, plus my own little comments in red. Sorry for the bad quality, I tried really, really hard to get the light reflections out of the way, often by waving paper in the air and standing precariously on chairs.

1. Illegal flags

"Being shot by Chinese soldiers for raising the Tibetan flag."
It's quite disturbing that most of these scenes aren't made up.

2. Imprisonment

"A young child's drawing of Tibetan people who have been imprisoned."

3. The cost of Crying Freedom
"A representation of Tibetans being tortured and killed by Chinese soldiers for taking part in peaceful demonstrations in which they called for freedom and human rights for the Tibetan people."

4. Tibetan Yak

"The Yak is bound up with Tibetan identity, and plays a major role in the social life and economical status of the region."
The poem was underneath, I'm not sure if it's the same as the text at the bottom of the picture. I like how the sun and the moon are there between the mountains, and plus I love yaks, making this one of my favourites.

5. Torture

"A depiction of torture methods that are known to be used by the Chinease on Tibetans."

6. Idyllic scene
"The artist chose to depict a peaceful countryside scene."

A rarely seen representation of mountainous, snowy Tibet.

7. My Beloved Country

"A teenage artist's rendition of a powerful image by Rapkar Kangchuk on a book cover, showing a dove lifting a Chinese flag which is covering the land of Tibet."
I Like how in the background you can see me desperately waving a leaflet around trying to keep the light from reflecting off the glass cover.

8. Homeland

"A Tibetan scene: Monks debating in the monastry courtyard, pilgrims circumambulating the monastery, prayer flags on the mountain top in the distance, and on the right a nomad camp with guard dog and yaks."

You can't see it, but this monastery was beautifully penned.

9. Tibetan Flags

"Tibetan flags surround Potala Palace, the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama."

10. The Dalai Lama

11. Choeden's Story

I couldn't find the commentary for this one, so I'm not sure what Choeden's story is about, but it seems to involve people being shot while crossing the mountains.

12. Mountains

I love this picture, it's so intricate and colourful. In the real version the purple is more pronounced, making it look like that dream you had before you woke, the one you forgot but knew was really cool.

13. Young Married Women

The children at work.

There were a few other pictures hanging up, but I didn't have enough memory on my phone to snap them all. Some of them included scenes as diverse as the Dalai Lama and assorted exiles parachuting into Potala Palace, and a picture called "The Death of my Brother", where the said brother is being executed for supporting an unoccupied Tibet.

The exhibition is running from the 1st to the 21st of December, 2007 at the the Aberdeen Arts Centre. Admission is free so if you're in the area pop in and have a look. It is run by Art Refuge, a charity giving Tibetan children the chance to paint and play and get over the traumatic experiences they've been through. You can find them here: I have all of these photos in higher definition, so if you'd like to get a closer look then feel free to contact me.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Curse of the Human Mouth

When Lhamo was eight years old, she and her family journeyed to the local hotsprings, as was customary in the summer. While her father and uncles sat and drank chang, fermented barley beer, her mother left her and her younger brothers to play while she greeted the arriving nomads. With them was her old Aunt Worm-Spit, who lived up in the monastery on the borders of Kham, her homeland, and Amdo. She had always been a rather shy girl, especially around her Aunt, as the one thing she really wanted to ask her was always too scary to contemplate. This time was different, though.

"Ah-nay, auntie, can I ask you something?" She said when her aunt looked suitably relaxed and talkative.

"How did you get your name?"

Aunt Worm-Spit shifted round to get a better view of her niece, and opened her mouth in a toothy smile.

"When I was sixteen years old, my brother Tenzin was asked to do a weather ritual, as that year was filled with rainfall that was so heavy, it destroyed small houses. This was because the chieftain believed him to have the gift of a Ser-Sung, a hailstorm watcher, one who could control the weather. As you know, this gift runs in our family, and was attributed to Tenzin after he made the sun come out for a wedding, when he was only five. After appeasing the deities, he was given a message by the rain gods, that he would be granted a wish-fulfilling jewel for his efforts, and the path would be made clear to him in time.
"The very next day, the rains slowed, and then stopped, leaving in their wake the biggest rainbows I have ever seen, to this day. It is an old superstition that if you cover yourself with dog dung, and then cover the dog in dog dung, and ride it along the rainbows path, the rainbow will never dim for you and you will find a wish-fulfilling jewel at the end. Taking this as his message, it was a strange sight the next morning to see him in the centre of town, covered in dung, and straddling a similarly coated dog, waving goodbye as he struggled along the road.
Days grew into weeks and no word or sighting of him was found, and in the meantime, I had grown terribly ill. My mother was so worried, she did everything she could and even called a doctor for me, but I would not get better.
"As I grew worse and worse, one day an old man arrived at the door, the father of my mother's friend Dolma. He said he knew the cause of my suffering, and so my mother let him in. His story was that he had heard Dolma and her friends gossiping amongst themselves, talking of how unfortunate I was to have such a brother, and whether I had his gift of weather or his gift of madness. My mother instantly recognised what was wrong, as did he. I was under the curse of Mi-kha, human mouth. It is believed that whenever people mention your name in abundance, whether in praise or in blame, a curse will fall upon you resulting in illness. She instantly resolved to change my name to something people would rather not say, thus removing the curse. A usual name to give someone in this situation is Khyi-Kyag, Dog-dung, but this might have had even more negative effects, so she renamed me after the two things that get rid of dung, worms and spit."

By this time most of the inhabitants of the children's hotspring were listening intently, and noticing this, Worm-Spit smiled and moved to where Lhamo's mother sat, so as to give the children room to play, now that their minds were no longer focused.


This tale is not traditional, but used to highlight certain examples of folk culture. The names, traditions, places, ect are all real.
Now you know what to do next time that rainbow appears.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tashi Delek

Up and running at last, and sporting a one-off cartoon to make it a good start.
Surely taking a hostage per se is desiring something anyway? Or could it be that the hostage is a metaphor for enlightenment and having obtained one he is desirous of nothing else? Or perhaps the hostage is both sick, old and er... dead... and so teaching him the impermanence of objects making him then not desire anything, including the hostage. Tricky stuff.