TIBETAN ART INDIA INSTALLATION
Tenzing Rigdol, a Tibetan contemporary artist, transported 20,000 kilograms of Tibetan soil to Dharamsala, India, for Our Land, Our People, a site-specific installation piece that opened in October 2011. Art Radar takes a look at this emotionally charged work of art.
Tenzing Rigdol was born in 1982 in Katmandu, Nepal, to a Tibetan refugee family. After a few years in India, he and his family moved to the United States. In September 2008, his father Norbu Wangdu passed away in New York. Motivated by his father’s unfulfilled wish to visit Tibet once more, Rigdol thought up Our Land, Our People. With no political implications and with the simple intention of simulating the experience of their homeland, he hauled thousands of kilos of land to the largest Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, India. Although The Tibet Post quotes a press release by Face of Tibet as mentioning a “dangerous journey taken to transport the soil, which encompasses the borders of many countries and their numerous checkpoints”, questions about how the soil was transported will ultimately be answered in a documentary that the artist is planning to release soon.
Installation and inauguration
After the arduous stages of planning and transportation, the soil for Our Land, Our People was successfully delivered and installed on a basketball court at Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamsala. A Tibetan flag and a microphone were mounted on top of the pile. There, viewers were invited to express their feelings and were even encouraged to “bring home” souvenirs of their homeland.
On the day of the installation’s inauguration, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, gave a speech through which he expressed immense gratitude for Rigdol’s gesture, as reported by ArtAsiaPacific.
It has been the dream of many Tibetans to return to Tibet and set foot on Tibet’s soil. Many have passed away with that wish unfulfilled. Today, I am stepping on this soil as a gesture of our struggle to reunite with our brothers and sisters in Tibet.
The three-day public installation struck an emotional chord with Tibetans of all ages. Rigdol uprooted land for those who themselves had been uprooted in exile and provided them with a sense of home in a foreign place. Feelings of overwhelming nostalgia filled the elder generation who have been refugees for more than five decades. Some knelt down to kiss the land, while others ingested the soil as a form of uniting with their native land. The younger generation stood in awe, feeling a strange and deep affinity for the home they never knew.
As accounted by the Associated Press, Tenzin Lhawang, a school librarian born in India, said,
I cannot describe my emotions as I touched the soil. I suddenly became emotional when I saw others walking on it and felt connected to a land I have never seen.
As part of the ceremony, the Dalai Lama blessed a tray of soil and on it, wrote the word “Tibet” in Tibetan.
The Tibetan diaspora
The Tibetan diaspora, or the movement of communities outside of their homeland, have been felt in a number of major upsurges since the late Fifties. In the period of a year following the 1959 Tibetan uprising, around 80,000 Tibetans followed the path of the fourteenth Dalai Lama into exile. After months of arduous travelling across the Himalayas, they finally re-established themselves in India. Faced with increasing political repression after the Chinese government initiated trade and tourism reforms in the region in the Eighties and driven by further unrest in 2008, families, monks and political activists have built new homes in places like India, Europe and America. In a 2009 census, an estimated 128,000 Tibetans are already residing outside of Tibet.
- Engaging tour of public sculptures in Taipei – Borneo Post Online – December 2011 – different public installations demonstrate growth of contemporary art in Taiwan
- Rubin Museum breaks tradition to show the first Tibetan art show in New York – New York Times – September 2010 – an exhibition that showcases nine Tibetan artists
- Beijing first to host Arles program outside France – June 2010 –
featuring Tibetan artist Mo Yi’s video and installation, My Illusory City
- Buddhist motifs, artist collectives in Tibetan art – Asia Art Archive – October 2008 – a sudden interest in Tibetan contemporary art emerges
- Contemporary Tibetan art moves away from its religious origins – September 2008 – Tibetan contemporary art is not merely “ethnic”
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