See portraits of Tibetan self-immolators by Paulo Nubiola

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2015 22:25 IST

Spanish artist, Pau Nubiola developed an interest in Tibetan culture, science and philosophy 18 years ago. On one of his recent visits to India and Mcleod Ganj, the quaint little town in Himachal Pradesh which is home to the Tibetan government in exile, he was distressed by the tribulations faced by the community which was forced to move out en masse from its homeland more than half a century ago.

Besides noticing the tribulations faced by the members of this exiled community, Pau also saw, as only an artist can, the dignity with which the Tibetans have been working to keep alive their cultural heritage and maintain a distinct identity inspite of the many hurdles they face- financial as well as political.

(Photo Courtesy: Ambika Choudhary Mahajan) The artist whose trajectory ranges from painting to performance was also deeply moved as he saw the shocking determination of the Tibetan people as a mark of their protest against the oppressive regime.

The men and women from this community have resorted to self-immolations (the act of setting themselves to fire) in a bid to draw international attention towards their cause.

It all began in 2009 when Tapey, a young Tibetan monk from Kirti Monastery, doused himself in flames to register his protest against Chinese invasion and subsequent occupation of his homeland. Since then, 141 precious lives have been lost in this manner.

(Photo Courtesy: Ambika Choudhary Mahajan)

"As their cause grew on me, I felt highlighting their cause and drawing attention to it is also Dharma practice. I started painting portraits of all those who had laid down their loves in this manner. Unfortunately, after I put up my first exhibition on them at the Tibet House in Barcelona, 13 more lives have been this lost. Infact, two more self immolations took place in the last 25 days that I have been here," tells an anguished Paulo while pointing to the portraits of Tenzin Gyatso (34), a father of four and Sangyal Tso (36), a mother of two who immolated themselves on May 20 and May 28 respectively. These portraits, all against a black background, were exhibited at the 'Flames in the Silence' exhibition which opened at the TCV Day School, Mcleod Ganj on June 14.

The warm welcome and infectious congeniality of the community has overwhelmed the artist who has stayed in various parts of the world for pursuing his passion. Together, the Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) volunteers transformed the sparsely furnished school hall into a modest art gallery.

(Photo Courtesy: Ambika Choudhary Mahajan)

The exhibition that was meant to highlight the struggle and helplessness while giving voice to their demands began with volunteers reading last statements of these immolators in both English and Tibetan languages. Candles were lighted as a mark of respect to the deceased.

(Photo Courtesy: Ambika Choudhary Mahajan)

One of the purposes of the art exhibit was, as Paulo says, "to light a candle in the darkness of fear and silence, a candle that cannot be blown out. An unfading memorial."

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