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!

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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!

freemuse-quote

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

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: