“White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings” – My Late Uncle Dr Pemba’s Book Launches in Delhi and Dharamsala

dr-pemba-niyogi-1

On 26 November 2011, my Uncle Dr. Tsewang Yishey Pemba passed away at the age of 79 in Siliguri, India. It was a great loss to our family but his distinguished life and career was honoured all over the world by those who remembered him.

Even though we still feel his loss, it is heartening to be able to announce that his novel “White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings: A Tibetan Tale of Love and War” has been published posthumously in India by Niyogi Books and will be launched at an event in Delhi this coming Friday, 17 February 2017. For the full details of the launch, see this link to the Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1220255771396207/

Even though my Uncle was a distinguished surgeon and had a long medical career, he had a huge passion for literature and the arts and spent a considerable amount of his free time furiously tapping away on his typewriter. His memoirs “Young Days in Tibet” were published in 1957 and Idols on the Path, the first Tibetan-English novel, came out in 1966.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was always his dream to publish more of his fiction so this makes the publication of “White Crane, Lend Me Your Wings”, after more than a 50 year gap since “Idols on the Path”, all the more special and poignant. The novel is a work of historical fiction set in the Nyarong Valley of Kham, Eastern Tibet, in the first half of the twentieth century.

As the book description says:

The novel begins with a never-told-before story of a failed Christian mission in Tibet and takes one into the heartland of Eastern Tibet by capturing the zeitgeist of the fierce warrior tribes of Khampas ruled by their chieftains. This coming-of-age narrative is a riveting tale of vengeance, warfare and love unfolded through the life story of two young boys and their family and friends.

The personal drama gets embroiled in a national catastrophe as China invades Tibet forcing it out of its isolation. Ultimately, the novel delves into themes such as tradition versus modernity, individual choice and freedom, the nature of governance, the role of religion in people’s lives, the inevitability of change, and the importance of human values such as loyalty and compassion.

For those who can’t make it to the Delhi book launch, there will also be a launch event in Dharamsala on 23 February 2017.

I’d like to take the chance to thank in particular my cousin Acha Lhamo Pemba La who has been working hard to see her father’s wish realised. Special thanks must also go to Shelly Bhoil for all her help and to Trisha De Niyogi and all at Niyogi Books too. I’d also like to take a moment to remember my dear Aunt, Dr Pemba’s wife Tsering Sangmo La, who passed away on 8 September, 2016 – they had been married for over 50 years.

For more information on the novel please visit: http://niyogibooksindia.com/portfolio-items/white-crane-lend-me-your-wings-a-tibetan-tale-of-love-and-war/

If anyone would like to get the ball for the book rolling over on GoodReads, please head to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34208098-white-crane-lend-me-your-wings

Finally, you can order the book from Amazon India – please feel free to rate and review it! Follow this link to Amazon: http://bit.ly/DrTYPemba

 

Upcoming Event: “Discussing Autonomy and Human Rights in Tibet”

Photo credit: Du Bin (杜斌)

On Wednesday I’ll be joining Dibyesh Anand and Shao Jiang on a panel titled “Discussing Autonomy and Human Rights in Tibet” at Kings College, London. Corinna-Barbara Francis will be chairing the event.

This event will begin with the screening of excerpts from The Dialogue / 对话, a 2014 documentary film by Wang Wo and Zhu Rikun that records dialogues among Tibetans, Uighurs and Han Chinese living inside and outside China. Wednesday’s focus will be the online video talk between two Chinese rights lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao, a scholar and the Dalai Lama in 2011.

2016-12-05-w-and-wang-lixiong-video-dialogue-with-hhdl

I remember very well reading about the video dialogues in Woeser’s memorable blog post  “How I Met His Holiness the Dalai Lama Without a Passport”. Because the video dialogues were being coordinated from her and Wang Lixiong’s small flat in Beijing, Woeser was able to be present during the dialogues and also to have a moment herself with the Dalai Lama which she describes in her post:

I cried and I cried. When I, as Tibetans do, prostrated three times, silently reciting some prayers, holding a khata in my hands and kneeling in front of the computer with tear-dimmed eyes, I saw His Holiness reaching out both of his hands as if he was going to take the Khata, as if he was going to give me his blessings.

Woeser’s moving blog post is still one of the most read and popular posts on High Peaks Pure Earth!

The documentary and topic’s significance is sadly heightened, in the run up to Human Rights Day, by lawyer Jiang Tianyong’s recent disappearance/abduction.

I’m very much looking forward to discussing the film. The event is free and open to all but there is registration via the link below. Thank you to Dr Eva Pils and Corinna-Barbara Francis for the invitation to take part in the event!

Date & Time
Wednesday, 7 December, 2016
16:15 – 17:45 GMT

Location

SW1.18
The Dickson Poon School of Law
Somerset House East Wing
London
WC2R 2LS

Link for booking:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/discussing-autonomy-human-rights-in-tibet-tickets-29475238231

Upcoming Events: London Migration Film Festival Panel and Westminster University Roundtable

lmff-poster

Looking forward to two events taking place soon, on Saturday, 12 November, I’ll be speaking on a panel as part of the London Migration Film Festival and on Monday, 14 November, I’ll be taking part in a roundtable discussion on protest and democracy in East Asia at the University of Westminster.

Full programme of the London Migration Film Festival

Full programme of the London Migration Film Festival

The London Migration Film Festival is a whole weekend, in my old stomping ground of Deptford, dedicated to migration, and aims to portray the diversity, nuance and subjective experience within migration. Apart from a fantastic array of films, there will also be workshops, a networking brunch and live music so please do come along if you can!

As part of the festival, there will be a chance to catch the exile Tibetan film “Pawo” at Deptford Cinema at 1pm on Saturday 12 November. Tickets are available for a very reasonable (for London!) £5 or £3.50 concession. Tickets can be bought online here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/EIHHED

pawo

To read more about “Pawo”, catch Tenzin Kelden’s review which was written for this year’s Tibet Film Festival held earlier this year in Dharamsala and Zurich.

Later the same day at 6pm, also at Deptford Cinema, I’ll be speaking on a panel titled “Diaspora and Integration”, along with Dr. Nasimi, Director of the Deptford-based Afghanistan & Central Asian Association, Vinay Patel, a British script writer of Indian heritage and Claire Dwyer, Reader in Human Geography at UCL and Co-Director of Migration Research Unit.

Directly following the panel discussion, at 7pm, there’ll be a screening of the film “Black”,  a Romeo and Juliet-style love story against the backdrop of urban gang wars and immigrant communities in contemporary Brussels.

It’s free to attend the panel discussion but you’ll need to book tickets to see “Black”: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/EIHHEI From what I understand, if there are too many people for the panel discussion then priority will be given to those who have tickets for Black so maybe it’s worth booking 🙂

I can’t wait to get back to Deptford next weekend – please try to make time to see Pawo and to come along to the panel discussion, as well as any of the other events! Thank you so much to the amazing people at Migration Collective for inviting me to be part of the weekend.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-13-54-16

Just a couple of days later, on 14 November at 6pm, I’ll be taking part in a Roundtable Discussion at the University of Westminster on “Protest and Democracy in East Asia”.

The roundtable will discuss democracy, social and political transformation and protests in China, Hong Kong and Tibet. The other panel members are Alex Chow, Shao Jiang and Dr Gerda Wielander – I feel the least qualified to speak but I will try my best!

There is more information about the event and also information about how to attend on the University of Westminster website here: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/events/roundtable-discussion-on-protest-and-democracy-in-east-asia

Thank you as ever to Dr Dibyesh Anand from the University of Westminster for inviting me, I look forward to meeting all the panel members and students soon!

My Interview with Voice of Tibet as part of their “Women of Tibet” Series

Over the weekend I was invited to the Voice of Tibet studio and interviewed about my work as the editor of High Peaks Pure Earth. And because of the series name, I was also asked a couple of questions about womens’ issues in Tibetan society!

It’s great to see this VOT video series and if you understand Tibetan I urge you to check out the other interviews too. My personal favourite is this interview with the remarkable woman behind Dharamsala’s tiny and delicious Woeser Bakery.

Thank you VOT for having me, Tenzin Dickyi la for patiently making sense of my blabbering, to Pedon La and her whole friendly team!

My Second Piece for Huffington Post: Shangri-La or Tibet Without Tibetans

Shangri La Poster

Poster from the play taken from their Facebook page

I’m averaging one article a year for Huffington Post, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I published Kundun: The Presence of an Absence!

I published my second piece this morning, it’s my thoughts on a new play in London called “Shangri-La” and the lack of Tibetan involvement in it, check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/shangri-la-or-tibet-without-tibetans_us_5791d00ae4b0a9208b5f61db

 

 

“The Language of Languages” – My Contribution to La.Lit Literary Journal

Below I’m posting an essay I originally wrote a while ago for the Kathmandu based literary journal La.Lit which was published in La.Lit Volume 4 earlier this year. It was fun for me to think about translations for this essay as well as to think about the literary relationship between Nepal and Tibet. 

In the time since this essay was published, I have read about Google including support for Tibetan script in Android but to be honest I haven’t quite understood how this works (!) My phone still doesn’t display Tibetan!

Lastly, many thanks to my friend Iona Liddell for introducing me to the lovely people at La.Lit who are doing an amazing job.

 

La Lit Journal Vol 4

 

“The Language of Languages”
By Dechen Pemba

In October 2012, at an event marking International Translation Day at the British Library in London, I was struck by how Kenyan author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o described the act of translation. He spoke of translation as “the language of languages, the one language that all languages speak”. As someone who grew up bilingual, studied two more languages, and now works full time with translations, I very much liked his idea that somehow all languages have one thing in common, the ability to be translated into another.

This idea reinforced my belief that translation was a priority area when it came to any kind of work related to Tibet. As the editor of High Peaks Pure Earth, a website that monitors social media use by Tibetans and translates blog posts, poetry and music lyrics from Tibetan into English, I both translate and commission translations. In doing this work, I like to think that I am not only bringing the voice of Tibet and Tibetans to a wider world but also contributing to the world of languages and the universal language of translation.

Due to the political situation in Tibet today and long-standing policies of the Chinese government on language, it is necessary to monitor Tibetan blogs, social media and cultural expressions in both Chinese as well as Tibetan languages. It became clear to me in 2008 that whatever information was being made available online by people on the ground, despite being freely accessible (at least for a while), was not getting out due to one simple reason, the language barrier. For example, had it not been for the efforts of China Digital Times, key information being blogged by Tsering Woeser would not have had the impact that it did. Woeser’s documentation of the Tibetan uprising in real time was translated from Chinese into English and made available on almost a daily basis. This proved invaluable throughout 2008, and, Woeser’s blog is now regularly translated into English on the translations website I subsequently co-founded in September 2008.

Though it has racked up close to 500 translations into English alone since them, High Peaks Pure Earth started as a humble blogspot blog and has now expanded into a trilingual website far beyond anything I had envisaged at the beginning. There are regular translations, Tibetan music videos, commentaries, a section for resources (useful for translators) and reading recommendations. For various reasons, it hasn’t been as easy to keep with translations into Chinese and Tibetan and a fully trilingual site with every post available in English, Tibetan and Chinese is still a goal I strive towards.

In 2010, on a trip to New York, I had a memorable lunch with the staff members of the Office of Tibet. We talked about our shared love of literature but also of our concern that Tibetans were missing out on world literature as too little was being translated into Tibetan. We ascertained that there were certain disconnects in the Tibetan community relating to language and, interestingly, the people at the table represented these disconnects. The Liaison Officer for Chinese at the Office, Kunga Tashi, felt comfortable in Chinese and Tibetan, and is very active online on social media in those languages, but not in English. The Liaison Officer for Latin America, Tsewang Phuntso, is active online in English and Spanish and also has a very good level of Tibetan but knows no Chinese. The Special Assistant the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the Americas at the time, Tenzin Dickyi, felt comfortable with Tibetan and English, and is an accomplished translator in those languages in her own right, but has no knowledge of Chinese. As for myself, one reason I had wanted to learn Chinese was to try to be able to build more bridges in the world but that at the end of the day, the language I felt the most comfortable with was English. When it came to Tibetan affairs, Kunga Tashi observed that Tibetans who read Chinese were reading Woeser’s blog, Tibetans who read Tibetan were reading Khabdha.org and Tibetans who read English were reading Phayul.com. Wouldn’t it be great, we mused, if there were one site where all Tibetans could read and exchange with no language barriers? I guess we didn’t realise at the time that we were wishing for a Tibet website written in the language of languages!

But it’s not just disconnects between Tibetans or in gulfs between very different cultures where translation can play a big role. Even when it comes to our neighbouring countries such as Nepal, literary translation has been sorely neglected. It is bewildering to think that two peoples, a great number of whom are fluent in each other’s spoken language, have no written works translated into each other’s languages. There are no comprehensive Tibetan-Nepali dictionaries in existence. Despite the most famous work in Nepali literature, Laxmi Prasad Devkota’s “Muna Madan” being set in Lhasa, there is no commercially available Tibetan translation. In fact, a Tibetan translation was done in Lhasa, from the English (!), on the occasion of the Nepali King’s visit to Tibet and was given as a gift to the Nepali delegation. So how many Tibetans know the work of Devkota and how many Nepalis know the work of Gendun Choephel? Two communities remain totally ignorant of each others’ literary history only because no work has been translated.

There are other Tibetan-run translations projects online that are doing great work. For example, the team at Karkhung.com translate all kinds of articles from English into Tibetan, not just Tibet-related articles but also works of investigative journalism and literary fiction. These acts of translation go far beyond mere words on the screen: translations into our own language contribute towards modernising and enlarging our own culture and play a large part in raising the self-esteem of a nation. We Tibetans can feel proud that our language is not only being translated into other languages but that our language is also more than able to handle and convey complex meanings and ideas from outside. Using our language is akin to asserting our right to exist.

Given that the Tibetan literary tradition goes back to the 7th century and its linguistic influence reaches far across the Himalayas encompassing areas of India, Bhutan, Mongolia, Russia and Pakistan, my pet hate is when Tibetan language is described as “obscure”. I wonder how it is possible that the language of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists, comprising of as many as 60 million people, can be wilfully left behind in terms of modern technology? For instance, Google has failed to incorporate a Tibetan font into its Android software, failed to develop a Tibetan language interface and failed to include Tibetan in Google Translate, the most useful of tools. At least Apple has seen the light there.

Imagine a Tibetan education curriculum solely made up of literature in translation – would China allow Tibetan schoolchildren to grow up reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 1984 by George Orwell and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie? A handful of Tibetan translation projects are by no means enough and in an age of fast media, quick fixes and online translation tools, the humble practice of translation isn’t receiving enough support, recognition or funding. How incredible it would be, to have more translations of Tibetan literature and writings in world languages. Well-trained translators who are fluent in Chinese, English and Tibetan would change the game in terms of our movement when it comes to information and knowledge bases, not to mention the wealth of cultural capital that would be at our fingertips. So to get back to our friend Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, let’s pay more attention to the one language that all languages speak.

Published in Volume 4, 2015, of La.Lit Literary Journal