A Week of “Banned Expression” at Human Rights Human Wrongs, Oslo, With Voice of Tibet and Loten Namling

Banned Expression Title Shot

I’m back in London after a fun busy week in Oslo at the “Human Rights Human Wrongs” Festival with Voice of Tibet and Tibetan musician Loten Namling. From February 5-8th we had public events every evening to highlight “Banned Expressions” from Tibet. “Banned Expression” is a campaign to highlight the silenced voices of singers, writers and artists in Tibet and is a partnership between Voice of Tibet, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and High Peaks Pure Earth.

An audience member (l) asking a question to the panel, l-r Orwa Nyrabia, Andrei Sannikov and me (Photo by Human Rights Human Wrongs)

An audience member (l) asking a question to the panel, l-r Orwa Nyrabia, Andrei Sannikov and me (Photo by Human Rights Human Wrongs)

On the evening of February 5, I took part in a panel at Parkteatret where Human Rights Human Wrongs were introducing their International Guests. I had the great honour to talk about my work and the world premiere of our documentary film “Banned Expression”, which was taking place the next day, alongside Andrei Sannikov from Belarus and Orwa Nyrabia from Syria. They were there for their films “Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus” and “Return to Homs” which were also showing at Human Rights Human Wrongs. Andrei mentioned how there had been people in Minsk demonstrating for Tibet back in 2008, I was touched to hear this, I had no idea that there were Tibet supporters in Belarus!

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A Tibetan song performed by Minkyak Kesang with Hildegunn Øiseth at the world premiere of “Banned Expression” in Oslo. Photo by Dechen Pemba.

The next evening was the world premiere of the 40 minute documentary film “Banned Expression” at the lovely Victoria Kino. I introduced the film and gave an overview of the current situation for cultural figures in Tibet. We also had a short programme of speeches, songs, a short film called “Modern Enlightenment” by Joe Baur followed at the end by live musical performances from Loten Namling and Norwegian musician Hildegunn Øiseth.

Banned Expression Concert Poetry Reading

Reading poetry before the start of the Banned Expression concert with Rini and Tsomo la

The final evening event was a full concert by Loten Namling and Hildegunn Øiseth who performed both separately and together, making a fusion of Tibetan and Norwegian music! Hildegunn had an assortment of traditional Norwegian wind instruments, as well as a trumpet, and together they created truly unique sounds rather spontaneously. Before the music started, three of us read out writings from Tibet, Rini read the poem “A Vow” by Woeser la, I read the preface of “The Restless Himalayas” by Dolma Kyab and Tsomo la read the song lyrics to “Raise the Tibetan Flag, Children of the Snowland” by Lolo. Both Dolma Kyab and Lolo are currently in prison for their writings and songs. After the readings, we left an empty chair on the stage to symbolise the missing cultural figures in Tibet, it was particularly poignant to do this in Oslo, a place that knows all too well the significance of the empty chair.

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Loten la singing at the celebration of Sami National Day on February 6 in Oslo, Photo by Voice of Tibet

The creative ideas that night came from Loten Namling la, who stepped off the plane from India and went straight into the Oslo programme like a true professional. I’m leaving you with his performance from his slot at the Human Rights Human Wrongs “Meet the Guests” panel, a song that he wrote dedicated to the Tibetan self-immolators. For fans I’d also recommend listening to Loten la’s 30 minute session on NRK radio, a mixture of interview and live performance: http://radio.nrk.no/serie/verdensscenen#t=53s

To follow the campaign “Banned Expression” like the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/freespeechtibet Of course none of this would have been possible without the generous support of Norways’ Fritt Ord and the energetic enthusiasm of Oystein Alme of Voice of Tibet and his whole team. Thank you to all!

New Article on Lhakar Published and Upcoming Oslo Events

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It’s always satisfying to see an article in print and yesterday, on Lhakar, two copies of the latest issue of Brennpunkt Tibet arrived in my snailmail postbox! Thank you to Tibet Initiative Deutschland for commissioning and publishing the article, Brennpunkt magazine is available to order from their website here.

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Next up I’m really excited to be a Festival Guest at “Human Rights Human Wrongs” next week in Oslo. The Festival itself looks amazing, from February 4-9 there are going to be a whole bunch of film screenings, related events, seminars and concerts.

I’m really happy to support the “Banned Expressions from Tibet” campaign and looking forward to seeing the documentary at its premiere in Oslo on February 6 at Kino Victoria. I’ll be talking about the situation in Tibet for singers, musicians and artists and reading some poetry too. On the evening of February 7, we’ll be at a special “Banned Expressions” concert featuring Tibetan musician Loten Namling.

Anyway there are loads of cool things going on for those few days so check out the Human Rights Human Wrongs website. A huge thank you to Voice of Tibet for supporting freedom of expression in Tibet and I’ll leave you with a video message I prepared for the “Banned Expressions” concert held in Dharamsala on December 10, 2013, jointly organised by VOT in partnership with Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy & Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts:

Food, People, Stories and Everyday Objects from Tibet at London’s Horniman Museum

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I stole this photo from the Horniman Museum’s Instagram account, I think. Sorry I can’t find the original link but copyright belongs to Horniman Museum, obviously.

First of all a very happy new year to all readers! It’s been a long time since I last blogged for which I apologise. I meant to write up my last trip to Oslo in October 2013 to speak on a panel discussion about internet censorship in China but I never got around to it… But I’ll be headed there again next month for some more events and I’ll definitely post an update afterwards (!)

In the meantime I’ve been thinking about how often last year Tibet in museums came up as a topic for me, quite randomly and not through any real effort on my part. First up last year came the interview with Clare Harris, author of “The Museum on the Roof of the World” which I was asked to do by Cerise Press. I was very kindly sent a review copy of the book and spent my Christmas and New Year 2012/2013 making my way through it which was a lot of fun, as was subsequently attending the book launch at the super quirky Pitt Rivers Museum in January 2013 and then actually doing the interview and talking at length with Clare.

Being made to think about Tibet in terms of objects and how Tibet has been represented in museums through the years was new for me and then, out of the blue, in early February 2013 my parents and I were invited to take part in a one-day workshop at London’s Horniman Museum on Tibetan food. The workshop was part of a “Collections People Stories” project that was being carried out by the curators at the Horniman Museum and their theme was ‘Food and Feasting’.

What was so great about this project was how the Horniman Museum were really intent on bringing their collections to the people and in particular to the Tibetan community in London. In fact, a fortunate coincidence is that the Tibetan population in London has been steadily growing not so far away from the Museum at all – in and around the Woolwich area in south-east London. That’s how the film crew from the Horniman found themselves at last year’s Losar event in Woolwich!

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Checking out the objects in the Horniman Museum’s Tibet collection related to food

The workshop itself had a fantastic format with the participants being a mixture of local Tibetans and Himalayans, curators, academics and also a monk and nun from the Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist Centre, also in south London. In the morning we heard talks from the organisers and in the afternoon we got to see a selection of everyday objects from the Horniman’s Tibet collection all related to food.

I think that Tom said it really well in his blogpost when he wrote: “For many Tibetans in London, Tibet is somewhere which cannot be returned to. For those born outside of Tibet, it is somewhere which they may never know.” The impressive range of tangible objects were from various expeditions to Tibet by people such as Otto Samson and Colonel F.M Bailey and they took us right back to a different time. Rummaging around our bookshelves at home later, I also dug up an edition of Colonel Bailey’s 1957 book, “No Passport to Tibet” which was quite exciting, here is a photo of the cover below.

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Cover of Colonel Bailey’s book “No Passport to Tibet”, written in Tibetan

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love food and find the topic of food really interesting in general. One thing I was able to contribute to the workshop were some thoughts about Tibetan identity and Tibetan resistance as related to food, based on the blogpost I had written in early 2011. For the best way to know what the day at the Horniman was like, take a look at the great video they made of the day, they did a wonderful job of putting it all together whilst also making it look really nice!

What was so nice though was that after learning that my father was born in Yatung, in April 2013 Tom from the Horniman invited my parents and I to their stores to look at more objects, this time all from Yatung.

Even though it’s taken me months to write up everything that happened with the Horniman Museum, I felt that it was important to highlight the kinds of initiatives that put people in the centre and inspire you to learn and read more and pay attention to the past, and especially to the funny way that your own history ends up literally on your doorstep!

Using Offline Spaces for Online Security

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Until formulating my thoughts for this article for Rising Voices, I hadn’t given much thought to the use of offline spaces Tibetans use to promote online security. It was a fun exercise to think about the various spaces we inhabit and use!

Thank you to Rising Voices for publishing this article and to Tibet Action Institute for their pioneering work on these issues!

Read the full article on Rising Voices: http://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/blog/2013/08/22/getting-offline-for-digital-security-working-with-tibetans-in-exile/

My Interview with Clare Harris Published Today by Cerise Press

ImageA long interview that I did with Clare Harris has been published today by Cerise Press. Clare Harris is the author of “The Museum on the Roof of the World” and very generously gave her time to answer all my questions about her book, Tibet in museums, propaganda and Tibetan art. I’d like to thank Clare for her patience both when giving the interview as well as in the follow up process. I really encourage everyone to read her interview and buy the book! It’s also the kind of book that would make a great gift.

I’d also like to take the time to thank Cerise Press for giving Tibet a place in their journal several times, Cerise had also published my interview with Woeser last year. Cerise Press announced that this edition will be their last. Fortunately, all issues of Cerise will remain archived online at the current site.

Update on August 10, 2013: Very happy to report that the wonderful team at Karkhung.com have translated the entire interview into Tibetan! It is online in three parts, here are the links:

1) “འཛམ་་གླིང་ཡང་རྩེའི་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་”གི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཁ་བརྡ་བྱས་པ།(སྔ་མ) http://karkhung.com/?p=2537

2) “འཛམ་་གླིང་ཡང་རྩེའི་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་”གི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཁ་བརྡ་བྱས་པ།(བར་མ) http://karkhung.com/?p=2551

3) “འཛམ་་གླིང་ཡང་རྩེའི་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་”གི་རྩོམ་པ་པོ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཁ་བརྡ་བྱས་པ།(མཐའ་མ) http://karkhung.com/?p=2569