By Tenzin Monlam
Dr. Emma Martin of NML speaking at the inauguration of the photo exhibition with two secretaries of DIIR, Tenzin Dhardon Sharling (left) and Sonam Norbu Dagpo (middle) at the Tibet Museum on April 14, 2017. Photo Kunsang Gashon
DHARAMSHALA, April 14: The Tibet Museum run and managed by the CTA, in association with University of Manchester and National Museums Liverpool (NML), today inaugurated previously unseen pictures of Tibet taken during the Younghusband expedition to Tibet in 1904, led by Colonel Francis Younghusband.
One of the brains behind the collaboration, Dr. Emma Martin, Senior Curator Ethnology at NML, inaugurated the exhibition titled, ‘Capturing Tibet: Colonialism and the camera during the mission to Lhasa’ at the Tibet Museum near Tsuglagkhang. The two secretaries of Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Tenzin Dhardon Sharling and Sonam Norbu Dagpo, also attended the event.
Visitors going through the unseen photographs taken during the 1904 Younghusband expedition to Tibet at the Tibet Museum on April 14, 2017. Photo Tenzin Monlam
Explaining how only few knew about the NML’s Tibet collection of over 2,500 individual items including the pictures, Dr. Emma said, “These collections are precious not only because it represents Tibet in a very particular way. It also represents how British understood Tibet in the late 19th and early 20th century. It also gives us a historical context that many other Tibet collection in Europe and North America do not offer.”
Dr. Emma who is also a Lecturer in Museology at the University of Manchester emphasized that her main aim is not to ‘overly privilege’ Tibet’s Shangrila-like representations but to dwell into the colonial violence, protest and resistance.
“These exhibits give us series of ways of thinking about photographs and how we can use photographs to enhance the historical record, challenge what we think we know,” Dr. Emma said at the exhibition of pictures taken during the expedition also known as the British invasion of Tibet.
Tibet Museum Director, Tashi Phuntsok said that the photos depict the actual reality of Tibet at that time, which the museum recognize as important parts of Tibetan history for the Tibetans and non-Tibetans to know.
“All these exhibit are taken from two photo albums of John Claude White and Gerald Irvine Davys, who were part of the expedition. These photographs not only tell the story of the expedition but it also counter the British versions of Tibet and events that unfolded at that time,” Tashi said.
Speaking on how of photography in the post colonial era has moved from an operative tool to drive political agenda to a power that exposes colonial domination and propagandas, Secretary Tenzin Dhardon Sharling said, “We may be in the post-colonial era but colonialism still exist in Tibet and China is the new colonial empire of the 21st century. Nothing can exemplify the colonial gaze in Tibet better than the camera.”
Along with the 12 panel exhibits, the two photo albums containing 200 unseen photographs, which never have been displayed anywhere in the last 70-80 years will be on display till May 24 at the museum.