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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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!

Photos from the “Banned Expression in Tibet” Event at Kings Place and Thanks Yous!

I’m happy to report that the “Banned Expression in Tibet” event at Kings Place on 20 June 2015 went very well! Thank you to everyone who came along and made it a memorable night!

We had such a great team of performers and crew so that on the actual day, it wasn’t stressful at all but really fun and everyone played their part beautifully.

I just wanted to post some of the amazing photos of the event which were taken by our good friend Luke Ward at Kings Place. If anyone re-posts the photos from here, please be sure to credit him as the photographer and mention that the photos were taken at Kings Place, thanks.

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The Programme Sheet for the night

 

For everyone who came and enjoyed the visuals we used as background on the night, here they are below. Many thanks to our talented graphic designer who offered her services and did all the artwork for Banned Expression, often to tight deadlines!

 

I’m also glad that Tibetan media picked up on the event, here are two radio reports online:

Voice of Tibet: http://www.vot.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/tib_23_06_2015.mp3 (From minute 19:26)

Voice of America report: http://www.voatibetanenglish.com/audio/2815048.html (From minute 33:20)

Finally I’d like to thank everyone who gave their time and effort to making “Banned Expression” a success. It’s going to be a long blog post but I wanted to take the time here to thank everyone who contributed and also make their contribution known!

My website High Peaks Pure Earth has enjoyed an extremely fruitful partnership on Banned Expression with Voice of Tibet and Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and their support has been unwavering these past three years.

Thank you to FreeMuse for supporting Tibetan musicians and for sending a wonderful message of solidarity to us. Several Tibet-related groups helped with spreading the word, so thank you to Students for a Free Tibet and Tibet Society. A special mention must go to Tibet Society and Tibet Relief Fund for bringing their whole crew to the event and especially to Philippa and Riki for supporting the work of High Peaks Pure Earth.

Thank you to co-host and co-organiser Kunsang Kelden, a natural on the stage and a prolific blogger at Lhakar Diaries: http://lhakardiaries.com/author/kunsangkelden/

Thank you to our performers! Thank you Ngawang Lodup! Ngawang is an emerging artist on the world music scene here in UK, don’t miss his session for BBC Radio 3: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02tykp5 and catch him at the end of July at WOMAD for a full 45 minute solo set: http://womad.co.uk/lineup/ngawang-lodup

Ugyen Choephell thrilled us all with his rock and roll heart and passionate words. Ugyen is always there to lend his support for Tibet, no matter how big or small the event, thank you for coming all the way from Bristol for us! Visit Ugyen’s website here: http://www.tibetalivingtradition.co.uk/about.htm

Thank you to Palden, someone who is somehow able just to turn up on the day and effortlessly pull off two songs amazingly!

Thank you to Sonam who conquered her nerves and reached new heights! Thank you to Bhuchung D. Sonam for letting us premiere his translation of “Today, I wish to offer three prostrations towards Lhasa” by Tashi Rabten at the event. Sonam read it well and the full power of his words could be felt in the room.

And thank you to Youdon Aukatsang who managed to fit Banned Expression into her already packed programme and effortlessly graced the stage like a true pro! A thank you must also go to A.E Clark at Ragged Banner whose translations of Woeser la’s work are so beautiful, the two poems that Youdon la read, A Vow and Scream are both to be found in Tibet’s True Heart, a highly recommended book.

And where would we be without our amazing crew members? Eli, thank you not only for your genius make-up and beauty skills but also for your support over the years for everything that we do. Eli was with us on Banned Expression from the start and looks after us all! From the Green Room to the Dressing Room to the way home, Eli had it all covered so that we were hydrated and had plenty to snack on, she thought of everything, even bringing flowers and scented candles to calm our nerves.

Shu-Ting, thank you for your AV assistance and sorry you got stuck in the booth all night! Thank you JD & ND for lending a hand whenever we needed it and thank you to Luke Ward for his photos.

Several businesses in London promoted Banned Expression by giving out our leaflets and having our posters up, including the Tibetan owned businesses Vintage Basement just off Brick Lane and in Camden and Kailash Momo Restaurant in the Tibetan hub of Woolwich. The lovely Nepalese couple at Rising Green Coffee Shop were similarly helpful, anyone in the Old Street area should check out their delicious momos every Wednesday!

The Kings Place crew were a God-send and made us look professional, thank you Andrew, Delfina, Michael, Alex, Matt and all the Front of House staff.

As this post shows, it takes a lot of people, planning, patience and support to put on a 90 minute show! I hope that events like this will continue to be supported so that the incredible creative resistance taking place in Tibet today can be honoured and given a fitting space.

“Banned Expression in Tibet” Comes to London on 20 June 2015!

Banned Expression plasma screen display

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/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BannedXpression

#BannedExpression

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.

Finally, I’m going to end with a powerful message of support for Banned Expression from FreeMuse and I’d like to thank everyone at FreeMuse for their solidarity with Tibetan artists. See you on 20 June at Kings Place!

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New Article on Lhakar Published and Upcoming Oslo Events

2014 01 30 Lhakar TiD article photo

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.

2014 01 30 HRHW poster

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.

No Passport to Tibet

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!