Hi guest, Register | Login | Contact Us
Welcome to Phayul.com - Our News Your Views
Sat 25, Mar 2017 11:10 PM (IST)
Search:     powered by Google
2016 ELECTION RESULT
 MENU
Home
News
Photo News
Opinions
Statements &
Press Releases

Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
Interviews
Travels
Health
Obituaries
News Discussions
News Archives
Download photos from Tibet
 Latest Stories
Budget session concludes, electoral reform discussion deferred to next session
Australian Cricket team call on the Dalai Lama
Senior Abbot says forced eviction at Larung Gar nearly over
India should take responsibility to ensure genuine autonomy for Tibet: Former Indian diplomat
Tibetans protest during Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s Australia visit
Lukar's car vandalized, says his family feel 'threatened by anti-social elements'
Yarchen Gar made inaccessible for tourists, foreigners
Dalai Lama’s upcoming trip to border state sparks political debate
Tibetan exiles observe World Water Day
Around 200 Tibetans arrested following latest self-immolation in Nyagrong
 Latest Photo News
Tibetans participate in a candlelight vigil following news of the self immolation protest by a 24 yr old Tibetan named Pema Gyaltsen in Nyarong, Kham, on March 18, 2017. McLeod Ganj, March 19, 2017 Phayul Photo:Kunsang Gashon
His Holiness the Dalai Lama gazes at devotees as he visits the Mahabodhi temple near the Kalachakra venue, a day after the conclusion of 34th Kalachakra. Jan. 15, 2016 Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
Three weeks after Indian PM announced Demonetization of 500 and 1000 notes residents including Tibetans queue outside State Bank of India and on-site ATMs to withdraw daily limit of 2000 Rs per account, Dharamshala, Nov. 28, 2016, Phayul Photo
more photos »
Advertisement
Activists Blast SF Museum's Exhibit of Tibetan Art
Pacific News Service[Thursday, June 09, 2005 21:28]
By Lisa Tsering

SAN FRANCISCO - Priceless objects dating back to the 9th century, such as a gold and turquoise-encrusted drinking cup made from a human skull, an ornate copper and gilt statue of the thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara, a brightly colored silk thankga (scroll) painting of a serene White Tara -- are they harmless exotica, or the latest Chinese propaganda tools?

These items are among nearly 200 pieces to be shown June 12 through Sept. 11 in "Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World" at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

The San Francisco exhibit (the show has been to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and the Rubin Museum in New York City) is one of the very first times many of the treasures will be seen in the West. They were left behind when the Dalai Lama fled Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959 for exile in India.

The show has sparked debate over just how political a force religion and art can be.

Pro-Tibet activists are calling the show Chinese government propaganda that capitalizes on the exotic appeal of spectacular religious items. "What the Asian Art Museum is exhibiting is something the Chinese are using to camouflage their brutal suppression of Tibetan freedom," says Topden Tsering, head of the Bay Area branch of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Terese Tse Bartholomew, the museum's curator of Himalayan and Chinese decorative art, worked with two other curators as well as Chinese officials to prepare the exhibition. The objects come from the Potala Palace in Lhasa (the Dalai Lama's official residence), the Norbulingka (his summer palace) and the Tibet Museum in Lhasa.

But is the exhibit propaganda?

"They can say whatever they want," says Bartholomew. "But nobody told me what to put in the exhibition."

Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, helped to lead protests against the show in New York. "We are not calling for a boycott," she says. "We're not saying people shouldn't see it. But we're making the point to everyone the context of the exhibition -- that it's being sponsored by the Chinese government."

China under Mao Zedong occupied Tibet in 1949, claiming it was a part of China. Chinese troops reportedly destroyed over 6,000 monasteries, and according to Tibet.com, the official Web site of the Tibetan government in exile, "hundreds of tons of valuable religious statues, thangkas, metal artifacts and other treasures were shipped to China either to be sold in international antique markets or to be melted down."

Dibyesh Anand, a Tibet expert at Bath University in England, observes, "What better way to neutralize Tibet as a political issue than to allow for exhibitions of objects from Tibet in the West, thus saying in effect: 'Look, we are good caretakers of the Tibetan culture and religion.'"

But exhibiting religious items in the West is not a mere PR move, says noted Tibet expert Melvyn C. Goldstein, co-director of the Center for Research on Tibet at Case Western Reserve University.

"The Chinese have been trying to influence Western thinking for a long time," says Goldstein. "This is just another attempt to show that Tibetan culture and religion are alive in China. The conflict with the Dalai Lama and the exiles is primarily a political conflict and the Chinese always try to separate it from their acceptance of Tibetan religion and culture (as they see it and define its limits)."

The most contentious issue to local Tibetans and their supporters is that the photo of the Dalai Lama will not get central placement and instead will be shown for a limited time in a separate space, alongside a few religious programs such as a mandala creation and thangka painting demonstration. Within Tibet, it is illegal to possess a photo of the Dalai Lama.

"The leaders of Beijing are deeply distrustful of him and his exile movement, to the point where even his image is disturbing," explains Orville Schell, dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and the author of nine books on China including "Virtual Tibet," "Mandate of Heaven" and "Discos and Democracy."

"And, so, the price of doing business with China is to quarantine both his movement in-exile and any representation of him," Schell adds.

To Bartholomew, setting an altar to Tibet's Nobel Prize-winning exiled leader in such proximity to artwork on loan from the Chinese government would be a slap in the face for the Chinese.

"Politics and art need to be kept separate," she says. "The Chinese government would definitely close the show."

To counter what they see as the show's pro-Chinese agenda, activists convinced the museum to present a lineup of alternative programs, including a Tibetan film festival. The Asian Art Museum is the only U.S. host that actively reached out to the Tibetan community for input. But activists still say the museum's efforts at a balanced view of Tibet fall far short, and that their demands have fallen on deaf ears.

They plan to rally outside the museum, handing out brochures and displaying the Tibetan flag and photos of the Dalai Lama. Giovanni Vassalo, president of Bay Area Friends of Tibet, says, "It's an opportunity for us to present the true facts about the situation in Tibet."

PNS contributor Lisa Tsering is a staff reporter for India West, a San Leandro, Calif.-based news weekly.
Print Send Bookmark and Share
  Readers' Comments »
Exibition of Stolen Tibetan Arts (GT)
art theft, state sponsored (wangdrag)
Art of Politics (joser gyatso)
Politics and Art (Nima)
Your Comments

 Other Stories
Today's GCM Matches Cancelled
Kalon Tripa Urges Tibetans to Join the National Expression of Gratitude
Activists Blast SF Museum's Exhibit of Tibetan Art
Kalon Tripa to Visit New Delhi, Germany
Dalai Lama to Live Long, But Elected Leader Must Exercise Power
China Clamps Down on Blogs
Tibetan Monks Return to Strengthen Links
Advertisement
Advertisement
Photo Galleries
Advertisement
Phayul.com does not endorse the advertisements placed on the site. It does not have any control over the google ads. Please send the URL of the ads if found objectionable to editor@phayul.com
Copyright © 2004-2017 Phayul.com   feedback | advertise | contact us
Powered by Lateng Online
Advertisement