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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Those Giving Voice to "Scorching Sun of Tibet" By Woeser

October 6, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth
October 4, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost
by Woeser that was originally written for
broadcast on Radio Free Asia on September 14,
2010 in Beijing and posted on her blog on September 21, 2010.

The blogpost reflects on a major contemporary
Tibetan art exhibition that is being held in
Beijing at the moment. As Woeser writes, the
first Tibetan contemporary art exhibtion took
place in Beijing in 2007 and was titled in
Chinese ???? (fasheng fasheng). This is how the
curator of the 2007 show, Leigh M. Sangster, explains the Chinese characters:

The first [fasheng] means "Happening" and is a
reminder that much is going on here in Lhasa’s
art world. The second [fasheng] means "to make a
sound," and suggests artists in Lhasa are finding
and using their own indigenous voices.

The English title of the 2007 exhibition in
Beijing was the rather staid "Lhasa - New Art
from Tibet". For the purposes of the translation
below and to keep the themes of voices and
expression that are found in the article, we have
stuck with the literal translation of the 2007 exhibition, "Happening, Voices".

Woeser's blog has featured much of the art work on display in Beijing.

Please see the following links to Woeser's blog
to see the work by various Tibetan artists:

Gade: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_13.html

Tsering Nyandak: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_14.html

Phurbu and Jampel: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_15.html

Yak Tseten and Tsege: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_16.html

Shelkawa A Nu and Penpa: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_17.html

Pema Rigzen, Phurbu Gyalpo, Karma Dorjie Tsering,
Gonkar Gyatso, Tenzing Rigdol, Kesang Lamdark,
Tsering Sherpa and Palden Weinreb:
http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_18.html

Kaka21, Tashi Norbu, Penba Wangdu, Penpa,
Jhamsang, Kaltse, Tashi Phuntsok, Ang Sang,
Tsering Dolma, Tenzin Dhargya and Suomani:
http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/09/blog-post_19.html


**********************************************
Those Giving Voice to "Scorching Sun of Tibet"
By Woeser
Beijing, September 14 2010

Three years ago, for the first time, an
exhibition on contemporary Tibetan art was held
in the 798 Art District in Beijing. Under the
title of “Happening, Voices”, seven Tibetan
artists expressed their aspiration to record and
portray the current situation in Tibet as well as
to create a voice for today’s Tibetan people
through art. Three years later, during the
Songzhuang Art Festival, another exhibition on
contemporary Tibetan art opened in Beijing. Fifty
artists participated, of whom about 80% are
Tibetan, including Tibetan artists from Amdo and
Kham as well as some who live in the West. The
remaining artists are all Han Chinese who have
been or are still living in Lhasa. This is the
first time that contemporary Tibetan art has been
exhibited on such a large scale. More
importantly, this exhibition is not expressing
the views of the government but those of ordinary citizens.

Through the title "Scorching Sun of Tibet," it
can be observed that the content expressed in the
exhibition has moved from the surface to the
centre; it is stimulating and greatly diverse;
and it also conveys a certain kind of feeling
that cannot be neglected within this “to be
spoken” yet “unspoken” situation. As Mr. Li
Xianting, curator of this exhibition, put it: it
is a feeling of “bitter anguish!” This reminds me
of a film about the Soviet Union from a few years
ago, it is called “Burnt by the Sun”. I have
watched it over and over again. The Soviet Union
was not the only country that exerted “burning
pain” on its people. Any totalitarian system
exerts on its people the same kind of pain. That
is also why we all feel the same way.

As an independent curator and well known
sharp-eyed art critic, Mr. Li noticed that
"fundamental boundaries” exist between the
artistic expressions of native and non-native
Tibetan artists. The reason for the existence of
such boundaries is that “none of us non-natives
can really experience but can only sense the
cultural identity crisis, the contradictions of
beliefs, the tainted religion, the damaged and
broken culture, the polluted environment, the
gravity of Han assimilation, the invasion of
Western consumerism and so on that have caused
this bitter anguish amongst Tibetans!” Another
curator of the exhibition, Tibetan artist, Gade,
pointed out that in today’s world “every Tibetan
is experiencing a change of soul and belief,
something that can only be truly experienced and expressed by ourselves."

Another one of Gade’s remarks is also important:
"how many out of thousands of artistic works
dealing with Tibet are actually expressed in our
mother tongue? Even though there are some, they
have already been altered to appear in a kind of
‘self-other’ expression.” It is true that due to
its particular environment and situation, Tibet
has long been depicted by different competing
powers and has been silent itself, not because it
cannot speak but because it has been “sheltered”
consciously or unconsciously by valiant powers.
Tibet always seems to be there but actually never
is. Hence, Tibetans themselves should articulate
the “real discourse” of Tibet. Yet the problem is
which standpoint we should uphold. A Tibetan
expression is certainly a reliable source in
depicting Tibet but without an independent and
critical spirit their expressions of Tibet are but parrot repetitions.

The Tibet under the "scorching sun" is the real
Tibet. One’s skin might burn or one’s heart might
even be injured in this “scorching sun” but
artistic expressions can be an effective medicine
to cure the pain. We see native Tibetan artists
telling many stories from under the “scorching
sun”: some of them in tears, some of them
humorous and some of them shocking. For instance,
Nortse portrays thirty Tibetan letters imprisoned
in an iron coffin; Yak Tseten and Tsege built a
tower of alcohol shaped like a Stupa out of more
than two thousand empty beer bottles; instead of
Buddhist scriptures, Gade carved the political
doctrines that fill our daily lives on a prayer
wheel, thus directly accusing the souls of every
Tibetan who has been involved in and is
responsible for this. However, the work that
impressed me the most was a series of oil
paintings by Nyendak, portraying a child with a
grave and innocent look on its face, whose gender
is indistinguishable and who seems helpless but shows no weakness.
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