Enjoyed talking to Tsering Kyi very much last week!
Following on from my first translation of a Woeser short story for MANOA, I’m pleased that a second piece titled “Garpon La’s Offerings” has now been published in Manoa, vol. 24, no. 2 (2012): “On Freedom: Spirit, Art, and State”, edited by Frank Stewart and Fiona Sze-Lorrain. The original title of the short story by Woeser la in Chinese is 《卡尔本啦的供养》.
The editor’s note says:
Woeser’s essay in On Freedom, “Garpon La’s Offerings”, tells the story of a Tibetan master’s loss and recovery of freedom. On one level, the narrator speaks in the voice of a slightly distracted reporter attempting to describe the “rehabilitation” of the political criminal Garpon La, the last acknowledged master of the Tibetan performance ritual known as Gar. On another level, Woeser uses irony to describe the government’s restrictions on physical, spiritual, and cultural freedoms.
I didn’t know much about Gar music and performance before translating this essay but I found Garpon La fascinating. When I told a few Tibetans about what I was translating, the older ones immediately recognised Garpon La and some even remembered him from Dharamsala!
One day last year I was on Facebook and came across a photo supposedly of Garpon La in Dharamsala in 1997, I am posting it below. I am sorry I don’t know who to credit for this photo.
The essay as published in MANOA is available on Project MUSE and for those without access, an excerpt is online: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/manoa/v024/24.2.woeser.html
After meeting the poet, novelist and human rights activist Philo Ikonya at the Bjornson Literature Festival a few months ago in Norway, I’ve become a really huge fan! Her own story is remarkable as is her commitment to freedom of expression, for everyone.
I’m also really moved at her continued interest in and support for Tibet. Below is Philo’s creative and moving response to the self-immolation of 20 year old nomad Tsering Kyi, as posted on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=398067366936009&id=112797722129643
“Song for the Soul of Tibet”
By Philo Ikonya
I was not here on the promised tomorrow
But I was in presence of mind
It was my own hands that stopped my writing
My spirit stood up in question
in examination of why some of us write
What others bleed and why some read
Why some are touched and harden
What the children say, what the Tibetan
Child says when the day dawns and
a beautiful mother such as I saw
A wonderful girl such as Tsering Kyi
is gone and is not playing any more
gone for freedom search in spirit
Gone and never to be seen
Her brief visit to the world
dousing with paraffin and dying at 20
Being a harsh judgement on what is precious
Why Tsering Kyi is no more if she so loved
to play with her cousins and so often
to sleep outside under the stars and sing to freedom.
I just wanted to share this video that was made by CNN and shown at the awards ceremony last week where Dhondup Wangchen was honoured by Committee to Protect Journalists with their 2012 International Press Freedom Award. A huge thank you goes to CPJ, not only for this award but for their support for Dhondup Wangchen and “Leaving Fear Behind” ever since 2008.
Here’s a link to a blogpost I wrote for CPJ in 2009 about my meeting with Dhondup Wangchen: http://cpj.org/blog/2009/12/the-story-of-dhondup-wangchen-a-filmmaker-jailed-i.php
One of the best things about my unusual line of “work” is that I get to meet all kinds of people who also do unusual things… and by unusual I mean AWESOME. I’ve known Leah since 2007 and when she hasn’t been subverting mainstream media from the inside, she’s been spending her time taking on big bad regimes and big bad corporations. She might even have been deported from more countries than me!
Leah is one of those rare people who knows how to give real help and support, be it putting Tibet on prime time international news, hooking SFT UK up with venues in London, getting “Leaving Fear Behind” shown to new audiences, giving media training to young activists, reading Woeser’s poetry and making it sound
intense great … all with minimum fuss.
So the least I can do is give a shout out to everyone to donate to Leah’s documentary project “Dirty White Gold”. It’s shocking that 300,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves to escape debt. At one point, up to 26 per day were killing themselves, some by drinking the pesticides with which they farm. It’s even more shocking that their stories aren’t told and that we seldom hear about it – we certainly don’t want to think about the part we’re playing in it by buying cheap cotton and cheap clothes. All that’s got to change though.
So far £12,405.10 has been raised, help them get to the £18,000 goal by November 16th AND every £1 donated unlocks another £3 – can’t say fairer than that!!! More information on the film and how to donate here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/cotton-film-dirty-white-gold
Can’t wait to see the finished film, good luck Leah, let’s make a crazy party once it’s all done!
It’s always fun when you hear a contemporary Tibetan pop song and recognise the tune from elsewhere. Like when I was watching Made in Tibet by Shapaley and my friend recognised the plinky plonky piano part being from the film “Amelie”. The word on the street now is that there is a Shapaley remix going round that takes a sample from “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” by Eve featuring Gwen Stefani, want to hear that!
I just wanted to share a few songs from Tibet that I’ve come across that sample some cool tunes!
1. Acha Tsendep’s song “Tibetan Girl” samples “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz
2. Someone sent me this song by Lhasa’s Tibetan Mastiff Crew a while back and it samples “You Got Me” by The Roots featuring Erykah Badu! I can’t find a video or anything for this song so I’ve uploaded the mp3, the lyrics in Tibetan (and English) are pretty nasty, there’s also a little bit in Chinese.
3. This last one is a straight-up cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” but with Tibetan lyrics and a rather, er, unique singing style. I’ve put this up on my blog before but I’m not really sure that people liked it, at least most of my friends don’t seem to! Anyway here it is again!
Does anyone know any more covers or Tibetan songs that sample contemporary pop music? Let me know!
Last weekend at the Bjornson International Festival of Literature in Molde, Norway, was educational, interesting and also a lot of fun. I met the wonderful writers in exile, Philo Ikonya (Kenya) and Asieh Amini (Iran) and got to know about the important of work of organisations such as The International Cities of Refuge Network.
I think my presentation went well and the audience were very kind and attentive. Chungdak la and I already did a write-up on her blog so I won’t post it again here, just click on this long link: http://chungdak.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/tibet-and-tibetan-writers-highlighted-at-the-bjornson-international-festival-of-literature-norway/
My hope is that everyone went away with a renewed sense of energy to raise awareness about the plight of Tibetan cultural figures. Furthermore, I also hope that we got people interested in Tibetan cultural output in general, in writings, music and poetry.
Highlights were Philo’s reading of Tsundue’s poem “My Tibetanness” and the concert on the closing night which I really enjoyed. A huge thank you to the organisers of the festival, everything was perfect!
Even though I just got back from India, I’m excited to be heading off again, this time to Molde, Norway, to speak at the Bjørnson Festival of International Literature. I’ve been invited by the organisers to talk about the current situation for Tibetan writers in Tibet and PRC. It’s a great opportunity to speak at a literature festival and I’m very grateful to the organisers not only for inviting me but also for putting Tibetan writers in the spotlight.
Chungdak Koren of the Norwegian Tibet Committee will also join me at the event and has published a press release on her blog. Follow the link below for more information:
One of the great things about my summer stay here in Dharamsala has been meeting and spending time with the array of bright, talented Tibetans in this small small town. Last Sunday I was happy to be part of a TibetWrites event launching writer Bhuchung D. Sonam’s new book “Yak Horns.” I was invited to moderate the event which included a discussion about writing and live poetry readings by Tenzin Tsundue, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa and Tenzin Dickyi.
And then yesterday I had the honour and privilege of meeting Tibet’s youngest blogger, 8 year old Tenzin Thinlay! Thinlay started writing a wonderful blog called Tibetan Sky earlier this year and he’s already been featured on Voice of America’s Cyber Tibet programme talking about it. He’s well on his way to going viral!
Thinlay’s blog is a place where he writes about his family, school, friends and interests. He also blogs stories and his poems – everything in Tibetan! The story of how he named his blog is very interesting and creative, his name Thinlay འཕྲིན་ལས་ sounds like Thinlam སྤྲིན་ལམ་ which translated literally would be a path for clouds – the sky! So his blog is Tibetan Sky.
I caught up with my fellow blogger during lunch break at his school, Sambhota Model School in Gangkyi, and did a short interview with him in Tibetan:
What’s your name?
My name is Tenzin Thinlay.
How old are you?
I’m 8 years old.
When did you start writing your blog?
In April this year.
How did you get the idea to start a blog?
It was when my Pala was away working in France and I would write to him every day. Pala asked me if I wanted to keep a blog instead so I asked him to set one up for me.
Your blog is all in Tibetan
Do you like writing in Tibetan, is it difficult to blog in Tibetan?
I asked my Amala to show me how to type in Tibetan and I learned it in one day!
One day? Wow!
Yes, one day.
What kind of things do you write about in your blog mostly?
My blog is like a diary and I introduce things I like in it and blog things I have written for school. I also take photos myself and upload them onto the blog.
Who reads your blog?
My friends and family members read it. My Pala also sent the link to some of his friends and they visit it too.
Do you think you’ll write your blog in English in the future?
Hmm, I don’t know about that yet.
Do you know what you want to do in the future?
I want to become a scientist.
Do you write your blog every day?
Not every day, I write when I have time but lately I’ve had exams.
I notice you post your poems on your blog.
Yes I write poems when I don’t have a lot of time because they are short.
How do you advertise your blog?
My Pala puts my posts on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have Facebook?
I don’t, I used to have one but I had a problem with the password and I can’t access it anymore, they told me my password had changed even though it hadn’t – I don’t know what happened!
Do any of your friends have blogs?
I don’t think so.
You’re so young, 8 years old, I think you might be Tibet’s youngest blogger, that’s what I’m going to write!
If you read Tibetan or are learning, do visit: http://tibetansky.blogspot.com/
A big thank you to Mati for introducing me to the new generation of Tibetan bloggers! Also thank you to the staff and kids at Gangkyi’s Sambhota Model School who were very accommodating and welcoming!
I’m excited to announce that a short story by Woeser la that I translated into English has been published by the University of Hawai’i in their literary journal MANOA, edited by Frank Stewart and Fiona Sze-Lorrain.
The issue is called “Sky Lanterns: Poetry from China, Formosa, and Beyond” and it “brings together innovative work by authors—primarily poets—in mainland China, Taiwan, the United States, and beyond who are engaged in truth-seeking, resistance, and renewal.”
The short story by Woeser la which I translated is one she wrote in April 2004 and is titled “Rinchen, the Sky-Burial Master”, the original title in Chinese is 《带我去天葬场的仁青》. Obviously I can’t give too much away as you have to get MANOA to read the story but it’s a good one!
My first encounter with MANOA was back in 2000 or 2001 when I saw their issue “Song of the Snow Lion: New Writing from Tibet”, a fantastic anthology. So I’m very grateful to Fiona Sze-Lorrain for giving me this opportunity to contribute in a small way, and of course to Woeser la for her writings!
Here is the full list of contributors to MANOA:
Chinese, Taiwanese, Tibetan, and Asian-American Poets
Bai Hua 柏桦
Bei Dao 北岛
Chen Yuhong 陳育虹
Duo Yu 朵渔
Hai Zi 海子
Lan Lan 蓝蓝
Karen An-hwei Lee
Li Shangyin 李商隐
Ling Yu 零雨
Pang Pei 庞培
Sun Lei 孙磊
Wei An 苇岸
Yang Lian 杨炼
Yang Zi 杨子
Yi Lu 伊路
Yu Xiang 宇向
Zhang Zao 张枣
Li Jun 李俊
Luo Dan 骆丹
Zeng Han 曾翰