News / Asia

    Contemporary Tibetan Art on Display in Beijing

    Jhamsang, Buddha series Tara (2009)
    Jhamsang, Buddha series Tara (2009)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Stephanie Ho

    A new exhibition at a gallery on the outskirts of Beijing is bringing contemporary Tibetan art to the Chinese public and the rest of the world.

    A row of young Tibetan artists stand in front of a towering sculpture of a traditional Tibetan religious object, a stupa. The shape was recognizable, but this stupa is made out of empty beer bottles.

    Tseten Kalsang is one of two brothers who created the beer bottle stupa. He says his artwork is about the dialogue between religion, tradition and modernity.  He adds that Tibet's tradition already has been portrayed well, so he is trying to show how the modern world also has affected Tibetan culture. He says the beer bottle stupa is an example of how many cultural changes start with alcohol and food.

    Another artist - long-haired, middle-aged Penpa - paints self-portraits. The sometimes naked figures are anguished, with eyes that reveal inner anxiety.

    Penpa says many people think of Tibet as a backward place, with an art scene dominated by religious paintings known as thangkas. He says this exhibit has given Tibetan artists a chance to show the world that Tibet also has a thriving contemporary art scene, too.

    Tension with China on display

    The exhibit in Songzhuang, just outside Beijing, is called the Scorching Sun of Tibet. It brings to China's capital a modern look at a region that has long been troubled. Many Tibetans oppose Chinese rule, and complain the Chinese authorities try to repress their culture, which is based on Tibetan Buddhism.

    Beijing says it has brought greater prosperity to the region and freed it from ancient feudalism.  Still, thousands of Tibetans have followed their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile in India.

    Tsering Nyandak's paintings depict objects - people and machines - against desolate, almost pastel-colored, backgrounds.  One of his works references riots that rocked Lhasa in 2008,  which he thinks were not depicted correctly by either Chinese or Western media.

    "Back then, media had a crucial role, but they did not portray reality at all. Sometimes, reality can be very specific, very personal, if the things in the news are generalized, then it becomes either political or very ideologically oriented," said Nyandak.

    The 2008 riots involved an initially peaceful Tibetan demonstration that turned violent after protesters attacked ethnic Han Chinese residents.

    Officials say around 20 people died, but Tibetans say Chinese security forces killed any more Tibetans. Afterward, scores of Tibetans were arrested and Chinese authorities barred most foreigners from going to the region.

    At the time of the riots, only Chinese journalists were allowed into Tibet. The government cut off Internet and mobile phone access, which made it difficult to verify what had happened.

    Well-known Chinese contemporary art critic Li Xianting is the exhibit's curator. He says he first had the idea to hold it in 2007.

    Li says that the events of 2008 had an effect on him, but did not delay the exhibit because the artists needed time to create enough artwork to fill the large Songzhuang Art Museum.

    Tibet's traditional culture disappearing

    One of Li's favorite works involves a grouping of 30 different Tibetan letters, cast in iron, each lying on separate piles of dirt arranged on the floor. He says he believes written language is an intrinsic part of any culture.

    Li says he was surprised to discover that many of the young Tibetan artists in the exhibit did not read or write that well in their own language.  He describes this as a "very serious matter," and says he thinks it is, in his words, "a form of control over Tibetans" that there is not enough Tibetan language instruction in their schools.

    The tension between tradition and the modern world is the overall theme of the exhibit. One work shows rows of hundreds of small mock clay plaques, covering a wall. They look like traditional Buddhas, but actually are Mickey Mouse figures. In other paintings full of recognizable Tibetan symbols, the figures posed as traditional Buddhas turn out to be men in business suits or curvaceous women in bikinis.  

    Prayer wheels are ubiquitous to Tibetans, and there are four at the entrance to the exhibit. Instead of covering the wheels with religious mantras, though, the artist uses the names of four generations of Chinese leaders - Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao - as a way of representing a process of assimilation and change for people in Tibet.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora