By Tenzin Monlam
participants after audience with the Dalai Lama
DHARAMSHALA October 9: Call them Tibetans or mixed or T-plus, the participants of the 2017 Mixed 2017 Conference for Tibetans of Mixed Heritage happening in Dharamshala say they feel Tibetan and part of the Tibetan community irrespective of the amount of exposure they have had of Tibetan culture, art and language.
Happening for the first time in India and with the support of Tibetan government in exile, the conference kicked-off today in a very auspicious manner with participants having special audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Born to Tibetan father from Lhasa and American mother, Tashi Dhundup after the audience said that the Dalai Lama in his speech told them of their ‘uniqueness’ of being mixed and also the unique opportunity it presents to carry on the message of secular ethics with both western and Tibetan sides.
As for the various names of Tibetans born of mixed parentage, Tashi said, “For us the important thing is that we know we are Tibetan and we feel Tibetan. We want to share that understanding and what we feel.”
He further added that amongst the 14 participants, most have met the Dalai Lama for the first time and are experiencing Tibetan culture for the first time in their life. So, as one of the goals of the conference, they plan to discuss about ‘identity’ and ‘what does it mean to be a mixed Tibetan?’
“Some of them did not grow up in a Tibetan community. So they feel Tibetan but they don’t know how to discuss that. So this forum would present them an opportunity to discuss their common experiences. It would also provide an opportunity to those who want to be more involved with the Tibetan community,” said Tashi Dhundup, whose father also goes by the same name.
The conference began with the participants from 10 different countries taking part in a discussion at the hall of Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) in Gangchen Kyishong.
Through the five days of the conference, the participants will be meeting Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay and have interactions with historians, artists, writers and activists. They will also visit traditional institutions such as TIPA and Norbulingka as a part of introduction to Tibetan art and culture.
Kunsang Kelden, organizer of the conference, said that the Dalai Lama had shared an ‘interesting point’ of him being not 100 percent pure Tibetan as he suspects a relative in his family belonged to a Muslim family.
The conference came in spotlight after North America MP Tsewang Rigzin questioned the Kashag (Cabinet) and Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) backing the conference during the recently concluded parliament session.
“It is shocking and unfortunate that someone who lives in America, a multi-cultural country, to have such views, which are bigoted, xenophobic and against the Tibetan charter that specifically states anyone who has one Tibetan parent is also a Tibetan,” Kunsang said, adding that they have received ‘overwhelming support’ from Tibetans all over the world.
The conference aims at bringing together Tibetans of mixed heritage in diaspora, to discuss and develop ways to best contribute the community and also to honor common heritage.