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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?"

Exhibition at Museum Centre Vapriikki in Tampere opens a window into Tibetan culture

June 20, 2008

By Jukka O. Miettinen
Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
June 18, 2008

An extensive exhibition presenting the culture of Tibet opened at the
Museum Centre Vapriikki in Tampere last week.

In addition to Tibetan religious art, mundane objects relating to
everyday life are also being displayed in the exhibition entitled simply Tibet.

The objects on show include nomadic and urban items dating back to
the last century, as well as articles that are being used today.

Somewhat surprisingly, all exhibits are on loan from Finnish museums
and private collections.

"Even we - the organisers of the exhibition - were surprised to find
out what a large amount of Tibetan art could be found in Finland",
says Project Leader Marjo-Riitta Saloniemi.

Most objects in the exhibition are related to the religious art of
the area, while it was rather difficult to find material that is
connected with everyday life, according to Saloniemi.

"Fortunately, the collections of Finland's Evangelical Free Church
contained a number of most touching objects, including a silver dog
scratcher and eyeglass frames made of leather", Saloniemi added.

Finnish researchers have also found some new items, including a nomad
tent with some textiles and a trunk. The most precious item in the
tent is a photograph of the Dalai Lama, surrounded with twinkling light bulbs.

Over the last decade, Tibetan furniture and oriental rugs have become
some of the most sought-after objects in the international antique markets.

The exhibition includes colourfully painted furniture and several
rugs, the most unique of which is a so-called tiger rug with black
stripes on a yellow-orange background. Only some 200 tiger rugs with
such a pattern can be found worldwide. The pattern refers to a high
rank and bravery.

The most impressive room in the exhibition is dedicated to the
extremely multifaceted Tibetan religious art.

The works of art include sculptures that are linked with Tantric
Buddhism as well as so-called thangka paintings which have been
painted on cloth.

All of them have a deep ritual meaning of their own, and they have
served as meditation tools, while reflecting higher spiritual truths.

According to Tibetan Buddhism, spiritual development proceeds through
various initiations.

In religious art, the significance of certain rather peculiar themes,
including sexual symbolism, will be revealed only to those believers
who have been initiated.

However, we outsiders can also admire the elaborately decorated
objects which that please the eye.

Vapriikki's Tibet is a most useful and timely exhibition. An
extensive and lavishly illustrated book about Tibetan culture and
history is being published in Finnish and English to coincide with
the exhibition. The essays in the book are written by renowned
Finnish experts in this field.

Professor Juha Janhunen draws a clear picture of Tibet's surprisingly
little-known history from the beginning of the Christian Era until
today, while Tiina Hyytiäinen sheds light on the life on Tibetan
women and Mitra Härkönen outlines the status of Tibetan refugee
societies in western countries.

Oppi Untracht analyses the Tibetian ritual objects and examines the
manufacturing technologies of various artefacts, while Jyrki Lammi
discusses the problematics of the authenticity of objects.

Harry Halén's article headlined Absoluuttisen totuuden äärellä
("Close to Absolute Truth") is the finest Finnish-language
interpretation of the functions and semantic levels of Tibetan religious art.

The special strength of both the book and the exhibition is the fact
that the old culture of Tibet and its conflicting present state have
been combined harmoniously and without mystification.

Tibet. An exhibition at the Museum Centre Vapriikki in Tampere from
June 13rd 2008 to January 11th 2009. Address: Alaverstaanraitti 5.
Muuttuva Tiibet ("The Changing Tibet") is a book about Tibetan
culture and history, published in Finnish and English to coincide
with the exhibition. 295 p. EUR 34.00.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.6.2008
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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