At the end of 2013, the “Banned Expression” campaign officially kicked off with a huge rock concert in Dharamsala, India, by Parikrama, one of India’s most respected rock bands. The campaign Banned Expression aims to highlight the fast shrinking space for writers and artists in Tibet to freely and fearlessly express their views and it is being jointly run by Voice of Tibet, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and my website High Peaks Pure Earth.
The Banned Expression story actually goes back a bit further than that though, when a small group of us took part in a conference that was one of the most inspiring I’ve ever attended. It was held in October 2012 in Oslo’s Opera House and it was called “ALL THAT IS BANNED IS DESIRED – World Conference on Artistic Freedom of Expression”, it was organised by Fritt Ord Foundation and Freemuse. The conference promised a lot:
Artists from all genres: music, literature, film, performance, theatre, painting, photography, etc., will perform, examine and discuss where, how and to what extent constraints are placed on artistic freedom of expression, not to mention examples of the potential of art to challenge established truths and framework conditions.
Tibet was represented by visual artist, USA based Tenzing Rigdol and France based musician Tenzin Gonpo in a session moderated by British journalist Frances Harrison. Their session can be seen on YouTube and is highly recommended viewing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1_0Su_0Eio
The conference was thought-provoking and led all of us to think about the many silenced creative voices in Tibet, especially after 2008 and what we could do to highlight their words and music. We all went away and did our bit, on High Peaks Pure Earth we started to translate, subtitle and post all kinds of music videos from Tibet and to date have over 50 music videos on the website. In a personal capacity, I started to focus more on Tibetan musical expression and published articles on Global Voices about music censorship and creative Tibetan musical initiatives.
For what became the “Banned Expression” campaign, Voice of Tibet and TCHRD did a formidable amount of work, putting together not only the rock concert but publishing a report Banned Expression: Stifling Creativity and Dissent in Tibet and producing a documentary film that premiered in Oslo at the Human Rights Human Wrongs Film Festival in February 2014. You can read all about the events that took place that week in Oslo in a previous blogpost of mine.
So… all that brings me to London and Banned Expression as I’m finally putting on an event here on 20 June 2015 at the stunning venue Kings Place. It’s going to be a great night as our team have managed to put together a varied programme that will include live music, spoken word and short talks. The evening will also showcase the best in UK-based Tibetan talent such as Bristol-based Ugyen Choephell who is an artist, musician and poet.
Myself and Kunsang Kelden, co-founder of one of the best exile youth blogs Lhakar Diaries, will be the hosts for the evening and we’ll introduce performers and guests who will perform songs from Tibet and read poetry, both in Tibetan and in translation. Among the stifled Tibetan voices that we will highlight are those of prominent Tibetan writer and poet Woeser, imprisoned singer Lolo, writer and poet Tashi Rabten and Shokjang, writer and currently detained.
Tickets for Banned Expression are available from the Kings Place website here for £9.50: http://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on-book-tickets/spoken-word/renaissance-series-banned-expression-in-tibet
Social media links:
Banned Expression Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/freespeechtibet
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1436153880019797/
I do hope that many of you will join us next weekend in London. Any proceeds from the night will go to the performers to support their creative work for Tibet.