Art for a Tibetan cause
A video, “Funeral #1” follows Ani Palden Choetso, a Buddhist nun and her trail of self-immolation on a street corner in Tawu town in eastern Tibet.
The eight-minute footage, smuggled out of Tibet, shows Choetso standing rock still, engulfed in flames, before collapsing. Later, a crowd gathers and prevents security officials from taking her body away.
It shows her funeral at the local monastery, where thousands hold a sombre candlelight vigil. Two days later, a hurriedly filmed mobile phone video shows soldiers attacking the monastery.
The video is a part of a of mixed media installations and video works of the exhibition “Burning Against the Dying of the Light”, by veteran film makers Ritu Sarin and Tensing Sonam, who are also the founders of the Dharamshala International Film Festival. On display at Khoj Studios, the exhibition brings forth the struggle of a land that those living in exile in India and elsewhere still hope to return to.
“We had a lot of footage lying around for many years. We decided to put together a show because it will help the Tibetan struggle to move in the right direction,” said Sarin, who along with Sonam made the Tibetan feature film, “Dreaming Lhasa”, that premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.
“Burning Against the Dying of the Light” – also the centrepiece of the show – examines the recent self-immolation protests in Tibet. A number of these fiery protests have been captured on mobile phones and, at great risk to the sender, secretly made available to the outside world. These bring home in graphic and horrific detail, the physical reality of self-immolations. In this, the Wheel of Light and Darkness is created like a mixed-media sculpture.
Then there is the “Funeral #2” video which had made headlines in the capital three years ago. It follows the self-immolation and cremation of Jamphel Yeshi who set himself alight during a peaceful demonstration in the heart of Delhi on March 26, 2012.
Another work, “Nets in the Sky, Traps on the Ground, Video, printed material” is a series of Orwellian phrases taken from official Chinese documents that describe some of the many control mechanisms and restrictive measures aimed at Tibetans will be projected on the walls and ceiling.
“Memorial”, a mixed-media installation, consists of a recreation of the self-immolator, Jamphel Yeshi’s sleeping area in his rented room in Majnu ka Tila, the Tibetan refugee settlement in Delhi, exactly as he left it on the morning of his self-immolation.
The “Taking Tiger Mountain by Storm” video installation, being shown for the first time, redeploys recently acquired Chinese police footage of a large-scale raid on a small village in Central Tibet, converting it from a security apparatus archival record to a parody of what Communism means today in Tibet.
“Two Friends” is a 10-minute-long single-channel video of Ngawang Norphel, 22, and Tenzin Khedup, 24, both monks, who took a vow to die together.
Apart from these works, the “Stranger in My Native Land” documentary by Tenzing Sonam, a poignant and personal account of his first visit to his homeland, is also being shown.
The show is on at Khoj Studios, S-17, Khirkee Extension till December 31 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.