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News :: Human Rights
Exiled Tibetans gain voice with first photos
by Joe Mickey
Email: tibetanphotoproject2 (nospam) hotmail.com
14 May 2004
The first collection of photos by Tibetans living in exile is creating a voice through media coverage and two exhibits
The Tibetan Photo Project offers the first photos taken by Tibetan monks living in exile, images of the Dalai Lama, informational texts and rare 1932 pictures of Tibet.
The perspective provided from the modern history of Tibet and China reveals a great deal about the nature of China's future leadership. The lessons have become even more relevant with the rise to power by Hu Jintao, China's former hardline secretary to Tibet.
•HELP grow this voice from Tibet in exile. Please consider adding a link to the project or as a signature to all your emails and Web postings.
•We offer slide show & lecture presentations for groups and organizations.
(See National and regional reviews below)
•JUST IN: Antioch University - Santa Barbara will host a Sept. 9 gallery opening of between 30 and 40 prints.
•OPENING IN 2005, at the Meadows Museum of Art in Shreveport, Louisiana…a complete exhibit of 60 prints, art and artifacts and cultural exhibitions.
•FOR EDITORS: We offer a complete and colorful feature on the Tibetan Photo Project. Drop us an email for a disc.
•FOR RADIO PRODUCERS: AN interview on the Tibetan Photo Project Co-founder Joe Mickey with Monique Fuller can be heard at http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=8597 where it can be picked up for broadcast, at no charge.
The power of one frame of film
Working from an isolated coastal town of 5000 in northern California, the combined circulation of publications that have told some portion of Tibet’s tragedy through the Tibetan Photo Project is over 20 million.
• Linked by Harvard Asia Center for the Dalai Lama's 2003 visit.•
•Linked by Africa & Asia studies, University of London•
•Linked by the University of Virginia•
•National media reviews on the Tibetan Photo Project
Seen by 16 million readers, resulting in 40,000 hits to
“Their work precisely captures with insight and enthusiasm the life of exiled Tibetans.”
-Bobbie Liegh, Art & Antiques Magazine
"Audiences leave seeing China's treatment of Tibet as a microcosm of how the communist country deals with the world." -The Slice, Colorado Springs
"Tibetan Photo Project is a magic view into a world no Westerner has seen. These unique photographs were created by Tibetan Monks themselves and give voice to their story and culture."
-Scribe, UCCS student newspaper
For a brief education at the site, http://www.tibetanphotoproject.com, read "Tibet at the Edge of Extinction." & "Save Tibet...Why?"
Please have a look at http://www.tibetanphotoproject.com
The story of The Tibetan Photo Project
The Story of the Tibetan Photo Project Photos by Joe Mickey & Sazzy Varga / founders of the Tibetan Photo Project
All copyrights the Tibetan Photo Project
• China's takeover of Tibet began in 1949.
• Beijing's brutal policies remain intact. In a population of 6 million Tibetans, Chinese government forces have caused the deaths of 1.2 million Tibetans by execution, torture, starvation, forced labor and imprisonment. Of 6,000 monasteries only 13 remain.
• In 1989 the exiled leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize He accepted on behalf of the Tibetan people and their efforts to find a peaceful solution to China's brutal occupation of Tibet. The Dalai Lama was among the first with a $30k donation to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York. The complete text of his letter to President Bush on the attack on the World Trade Center can be found at www.tibet.com.
• Over 135,000 Tibetans live in exile with between 1,500 and 3,500 escaping into Nepal and India each year.
• Tibet's exile community offers great insight into the nature of the Chinese leaders at a time when Beijing’s role on the stage of world events is expanding rapidly.
My contact with the Tibetan monks began on the Mendocino stop of their 1999 American cultural tour. I had the privilege of a photo-op and an interview with a Lama.
At that time, I was beginning a great deal of research on the Tibetan accusations of abuse at the hands of the Chinese government. In "Tears of Blood - A Cry for Tibet" by Mary Craig and "In Exile From the Land of Snows" by John Avedon, I had read the accounts of terrible atrocities suffered at the hands of the Chinese government forces told by Tibetans who had escaped to India.
The follow-up research consisted of reviewing news from major media sources in print, broadcast and on the Web. I wanted to sort out any Tibetan propaganda from the facts. I have developed a hard copy file that numbers about 2,500 articles. They cover all aspects of recent developments in China.
With regards to the Tibetans, the file confirms the claims of horrific methods regularly employed by the Chinese government. China officially labels torture as "Reeducation". Beijing labels accounts of torture "the propaganda of splittists" and "internal matters", and of no concern for the international community
During my meeting with the Tibetans I was introduced to a sponsorship program for Tibetan monks living in one of the Buddhist monasteries they have recreated in India. I send a small monthly amount (to a cause that I have thoroughly researched) and enjoy a slow but rewarding correspondence with Jam Yang Norbu.
There is no instant messenger or e-mail. This is all handled by regular mail. When my letters arrive in India they wait at the monastery for available translators. Norbu responds in an original Tibetan script that he gives the translators and it is eventually typed up on a manual typewriter and sent to me. The process of a single communication cycle can easily take six to ten weeks.
I have been a photographer for over 30 years and I immediately began to package up point-and-shoot cameras and added the basics rules of good photography to my letters. From Jam Yang Norbu I learned that the camera was a new concept for Tibetans dedicated to rebuilding and preserving their culture.
The first roll of photos was processed in India and I received a set of prints. From the start, Jam Yang Norbu and his friends paid great attention to the basic lessons in photography and produced a series of well-lit but posed images.
On the receiving end, this was still, nothing less than a magic view into another world. More importantly, the view was not being provided by an outsider looking in through a lens and preconceived notions. I was being given the vantage point from the inside.
I immediately sent a small flood of cameras and film and in correspondence we discussed how photography could be used as a tool in their efforts to preserve Tibetan culture if he could record his friends living that culture on film. Again, the monks have paid very good attention and I have been given the gift of rare glimpses into the lives of some of the 2,500 monks of the Drepung Monastery.
What has been revealed in the photos and the letters is a dedicated group of men living and struggling and very often laughing through lives that have very few needs or desires. They work with complete dedication to preserve the best of Tibetan culture.
Belief in any religion is a matter of personal temperament and life history. At best I classify myself as a skeptical agnostic. Tibetan Buddhism is based in a moderate or balanced form of the practice. Studies have shown that elements of Tibetan Buddhist mind training, meditation and prayer and Tibetan medicines offer the potential for better mental and physical health. What has captured my interest in the Tibetan struggle is the injustice of China's occupation of Tibet. The strength of their peaceful struggle holds a mirror for the world to see the reflection of the brutal nature of the leadership in Beijing.
Tibetans are not all pacifists. Many would be happy to regain Tibet by force, and while not a realistic possibility, that option for a solution is as much a part of their collective thought as any other group of oppressed people. But through my research and contact with Jam Yang Norbu, I have also discovered the power of peaceful resolve of the human spirit that can only be found in rare and great people, past and present.
Beyond the myths of Shangri-La, their culture and history has all the human flaws but, as Tibetans stand at the edge of a violent forced extinction, they have not given up the search for the soul, heart and true purpose behind the gift of human existence. History says they will prevail. Over 2500 years, kingdoms, nations, and dynasties have fallen, while the simple monks have walked a continuous path through the changing centuries. My conclusion, which has grown stronger in light of recent events, We certainly need their examples more than they need ours.
Over the past two years China has grown its economy between 7 and 8 percent. Over the same period, Beijing has increased military spending at 12 and 17. China is at the manufacturing end of the supply line for many weapons purchased by countries that support terrorism. Two days before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Chinese government issued a statement in support of Yasser Arafat. News of China's controversial entry into the WTO was overshadowed by the terrorist attack on New York. China has offered little official response to the terrorists’ attacks in New York on Sept. 11.
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Help grow this voice from Tibet in exile. Please consider adding a link to the project or as a signature to all your emails and Web postings.
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