News and Views on Tibet

Cornell honors Tibetan culture with series of events

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By Michelle Peterson

Cornell University’s first go at a week of Tibetan celebration highlights the region’s spirituality, geography and the human rights struggle, the three most popular issues concerning the region according to the outreach coordinator for the East Asia Project.

“It’s just a really nice array of things that are attractive to different age groups and people of different interests,” said outreach coordinator David Patt.

Ithaca has a tremendous amount of resources related to Tibet, and many are being utilized for this two-week celebration, he said. The main event, scheduled for Wednesday, April 16, is a presentation by Tibetan monk Palden Gyatso, who survived more than 30 years as a political prisoner in Communist China. It will be held in the Annabel Taylor Hall Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Gyatso was first arrested in 1959, at the height of the Chinese military invasion of Tibet and has since become a leading spokesman for Tibetan human rights and has travelled throughout Europe and the states.

Keyzom Ngodup, a Cornell undergraduate and president of university’s branch of Students for a Free Tibet, came up with the idea to bring Gyatso to campus. She and Pratt lined it up with a talk by Robbie Barnett, a well-known figure in the history of the Tibetan movement.

Barnett, who spoke Monday on “Street Resistance and Party Cadres: Women’s Activism in Tibet, 1987-1996,” started the Tibet Information Network, now the foremost source of news coming out of the country. The two presentations were coupled and the week of events was built around them. “It bloomed and blossomed and we had to push it to two weeks because we couldn’t squeeze it all in,” Patt said.

On Wednesday, April 9, a film called “A Rare Look at Tibet in the 1930s,” provides a look into the exotic Himalayan Kingdom and will be provided by post-doctoral visiting scholar Mark Turin.

Turin will show excerpts of a film shot by Sir Frederick Williamson, a British Patrol Officer stationed in Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet in the 1930s. The event will be held in the Whetzel Room, 404 Plant Science Building at 7 p.m. Turin will show excerpts from the 23 reels of silent, black and white film Williamson shot during his tours.

More visuals from the country can be seen in a new film, “Tibet, Cry of the Snow Lion,” which will be screened three times at Cornell Cinema. Patt said the film has only been shown at a few festivals to good reaction.

The documentary by Tom Peosay, a project 10 years in the making, explores the complex web of propaganda, history, politics and emotions that surround the Tibetan issue.

The film, which will be shown at Willard Straight Hall on April 12 and 15 at 7:15 p.m. and on April 13 at 4:30 p.m., is the only event with a ticket price. The Tuesday showing is co-sponsored by the International Students Programming Board, and reduces the price for all Cornell undergrads to $4.

Tibetan Buddhism, what sparked this country’s interest in Tibet, will be covered by a number of talks held at various organizations in and around Ithaca, Patt said.

Patt, the founder of the Lake Moon Dharma Foundation, will talk on the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism. The talk, held at the Foundation of Light, begins at 7:30 p.m. on April 10. The foundation is located on Turkey Hill Road, which is two miles past East Hill Plaza, on the left. The driveway to the foundation is the third on the right. The following night, April 11 at 7 p.m., Tenzin Leghpel will present “Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Middling Stage of Meditation” at the Namgyal Monastery at 412 Aurora Street.

“He’s an unusual bird. He’s an Indian Brahmin young man who became a Tibetan monk,” Patt said.

On April 17, Craig Preston will speak on “Analysis and Practice in Tibetan Buddhism,” covering the scholastic side of the religion at the Nagarjuna Language Institute at 218 Utica Street at 7:30 p.m.

An open-house reception at the Namgyal Monastery is a chance for the community to get acquainted with the monks at Ithaca’s only Buddhist monastery and hear about the programs they offer. “It’s for people who’ve never been to just come in with no obligations or expectations, drink some tea and have some cookies and see what it looks like,” Patt said.

The reception will be held at the monastery, located at 412 North Aurora Street, on April 18 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

“And last but not least, we’re ending with week with a wonderful puppet show,” Patt said.

The Magic Garden Puppets, with Kundry Willwerth as artistic director, will perform the Tibetan folk tale “The Gift of the Naga King” on April 19 at 10 a.m. at the Robert Purcell Community Center. “They usually deal in materials from Western mythology, but they got interested in Tibetan culture and teamed up with the Tibetan community to create this beautiful performance of a classic Tibetan folktale,” Patt said. Cornell’s East Asia Program and the university’s branch of Students for a Free Tibet are the main sponsors for the two-week event.

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