Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lamp Map of Tibet from SFT's Art Auction

At SFT's Art Auction held sometime ago, in Chinatown of all places, there were several pieces of art that pulled at my heart. One that was very very cool and creative was Tenzin Mochoe's piece: a sculpture of a map of Tibet made up of little wax candles. Mochoe described the piece as a melding together of the political and the religious- the map of Tibet with the candles symbolizing butter lamps that we light in temples; and he stressed that with the lighting of the lamps, the act of creation, of making the map come alive with fire, simultaneously becomes an act of destruction- as the candles light, the wax melts and the map blurs.

I thought this was brilliant. A map of Tibet is always highly political, especially a map of Tibet as we conceive it, with borders around the three historical provinces of Tibet and the plateau itself as one political entity (just as it is one geological unit). Here, this map, the highly political and usually secular entity, becomes spiritual and sacred. And how does it become sacred? Not by sitting there as a piece of art, but because people -the audience- light the candles as an offering, which act, when you think about it, is really the performance of a wish fulfulling ritual. You make the wish, and you light the lamp to mark its making. With the lighting of the lamps made of candles, you are complicit in the creation and the destruction and the sanctification of this map of Tibet made of lamps.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thanking His Holiness

I had a chance at Garrison Institute in upstate New York to thank His Holiness. This was in front of a hundred Tibetan professionals who had gathered there for the three-day Tibetan Professionals' Conference. The Conference itself was crazy and inspiring and very very hectic for Tsewang la and me. But more on the conference later. For me, of course, the moment that stands out is when I got to thank His Holiness. I was to thank him for being there. But of course I had to thank His Holiness for so much more than that. Obviously we owe His Holiness everything- the strength of our identity, the unity of our people, our image, our platform, our place in the world. Displaced as we are, we are not invisible and that is because of His Holiness. Anyway this is my thank you note, or address, or whatever that I read in front of His Holiness and the audience of Tibetan professionals at Garrison Institute, Monday, October 5.

Tashi Delek, Your Holiness, and good afternoon to all. On behalf of the Office of Tibet, I would like to once again thank all the participants and speakers for being here and Garrison Institute for providing us with this wonderful space.

On behalf of all the Tibetans, and all the youth and professionals gathered here, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Your Holiness for meeting with us in spite of your most hectic schedule.

In the past fifty years, we were forced to cross the highest mountains to go into exile, and from that exile we crossed oceans to go into an even further exile. We live on other nations’ charity, on other people’s good will and conscience, but we have dignity and we have strength because when we lift our gaze up, we see you.

Many of us here in this room are more fortunate and privileged than most of our countrymen. We believe that there is no further exile. From here on, every step must be a step home. Our parents’ generation suffered and sacrificed for the cause of our nation. I assure Your Holiness that we will continue to do the same, with courage and resilience, to realize the vision of a Tibet where Tibetans can live in peace and prosperity and freedom. Thank you.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Chinese Empire...State Building?!

60 years ago yesterday, Chairman Mao chased Chiang Kaishek off the Middle Kingdom, surveyed his fiefdom of Long March survivors, youthful yet-to-be-disillusioned Communists and a war-weary people, and proclaimed the People's Republic of China. After that, Mao and his Army proceeded to invade and occupy Tibet, East Turkestan, Inner Mongolia. That wasn't all. He also launched a drastic social and agricultural experiment called the Great Leap Forward which caused large-scale famine across China (and of course across Tibet and the other occupied territories) and killed tens of millions of people. Then of course he jump started the Cultural Revolution - not for ideological reasons as some people may like to think but because of petty power struggles with his comrades Liu Shaoqi and others in the Politburo. Now Mao is dead but his totalitarian regime lives marching on. 

Yesterday, in an astoundingly stupid move, the owners and managers of the Empire State Building in New York -W and H Properties- lit the building red and yellow in celebration of the 60 Year Anniversary of the founding of the PRC. What were they thinking? Not only is it immoral and shameful to honor a government and a state that jails, tortures and kills people for expressing dissent, but it's unbelievably bad public relations. 

Of course we came out to protest. And of course, in today's papers, every mention of the Empire State Building's cloaking itself in red bloody light emphasized the protests and the Tibetan reaction. 

So really- for us? Win-win. The Empire State Building selling its soul gave the Tibetans a platform to protest the anniversary of the Politburo's Republik of China.