Written by Tenzin Rabga, MK Chicago
First and foremost, as two male members of the community we acknowledged from the beginning that we have to be both mindful and incredibly humble in our understanding (or lack thereof) of women’s issues in our community. We feel that since we have not and will not live their experiences, we can but only speculate and not speak of what it is really like to be a woman in the Tibetan context.
Nevertheless, we noticed that the notion of srinmo - a barbaric, untamed, uncivilized creature, is laden with patriarchal biases that cast the female inferior to the male, and as a negative existence. It was also brought to our knowledge that the whole srinmo imagery might also have deeper cultural and religious roots, particularly relating to the depiction of the traditional Bon culture as the barbaric and untamed and the imported Buddhist values as civilizing and taming the beast. However, this does not eradicate the pervasive gender-based implicit and explicit biases in this imagery.
Dhondup made a poignant point, that any “redefining” of our history is determined by the demands of the present. Therefore, what gen Palmo does with her redefining the srinmo is a reflection of our current times, where women have taken ownership of their own narratives and how they are portrayed.
We also noted that there appears to be a significant gulf between the literate authors and their circles, and the illiterate peasants and villagers who live these experiences. It was brought to our attention that the general readership in Tibetan has been declining overall. We realize that this is an issue that prevents authors such as gen Palmo from fully reaching to her audiences. We wondered if other avenues and forms of mass media could be used to bridge this gulf. Radio broadcasting appears to be more accessible to the general population.
We then discussed ways in which our communities could help create a safer and more conducive environment for healthy and helpful discussions on gender inequalities. We noticed that particularly in our Tibetan communities, the powerful and influential figures have a role to play in this regard. Their encouragements and directions can help ease the conversations and bring about meaningful changes, for example the establishment of the geshema degree for nuns. We also realize that change has to come from a groundswell of popular movement. For this, education is foundational.
We come away from this discussion with a somber dismay at the state of affairs of Tibetan literary culture with the declining readerships, but with a renewed sense of urgency that we need to read more Tibetan, and learn about more female Tibetan authors in particular.
desire within Tibetan women come to be entangled as they come into the world (family expectations and male hunger) all while maintaining space for the contradictions innate to the experience of womanhood. Indeed, Gen Palmo asserts that she is many things at once: she is immaculate, pearl, contract, commodity, country and wisdom. What struck our group the most was the ways in which she played with metaphors and images with great skill. In Approach Me Not Gen Palmo rejects classical images of Tibetan women (often likened to pearls and nectar in songs and poems) in favour of gruesome ones (charcoal and poison streams). In doing so, she effectively dismantles the image of the resplendent, static woman whose body is property, instead imbuing the figure of the woman with complexity, with dangerous potentiality.
Overall, this Khabda helped us challenge both our understandings of Tibetan womanhood and Tibetan literature. One participant, a male McGill PhD student remarked on how his understanding of Tibetan poetry had shifted entirely, having now reconsidered the role of gender within dominant modes of learning and writing. More broadly, we discussed how women shaped Tibetan landscapes in the context of communities both inside and outside Tibet. In line with this, we discussed my personal favourite stanza of Gen Palmo’s poem I am who I am: “I am who I am / I am a queen / A mother, whose golden vessel of a womb gave birth to the children of a nation / Averting the fall of Tibet’s ancient traditions in calamitous times / I hoist and raise the pillar of earnestness / When my life is vested with power and equality / I am country.” Tibetan women, in a sense, are carriers of place. Carrying lakes, mountains, stones, Tibetan women form a vast country in a time of seeming placelessness. However, this worlding remains conditional on both power and equality as Gen Palmo reminds us. Redefining srinmo, as such, must entail a collective project of examining and dismantling gender roles, a realization that the spirit of srinmo is wild, powerful and endlessly creative.
As the first Khabda Week of 2020 rolls out, we want to thank all our local hosts for joining us in celebrating the visionary spirit of Professor Huamo Tso and her remarkable work for Tibetan women.
Each Khabda carries a unique spirit as they reflect an array of local hosts and communities. The Machik team curates the Khabda topics and then an amazing community of global participants take part. Given the current global spread of the coronavirus (covid-19), we are closely monitoring recommendations of health officials. Since Khabda takes place in many different communities around the world, we strongly encourage all local Khabda hosts and participants to follow preventive measures recommended by your local health authorities (such as the CDC in the USA) and the advice of groups such as the WHO.
The safety of all participants is a top priority. Here are some key tips:
We sincerely thank everyone taking part in Khabda this week as part of our celebration of International Women’s Day and we look forward to hearing from your local gatherings!
For any questions or concerns, please write to us at email@example.com
Written by Dr. Dechen Tsewang, MK Santa Fe Host
The 4th Machik Khabda in Santa Fe took place in our back yard and the participants were my two daughters: Pema, age 8, Drukar, age 4 and their friend Norzom, age 7. I made a platter of treats and we looked at video of ANU’s song Fly with prompts to look at images that capture their eyes. The kids are familiar with the song as it has been played at home, various Tibetan community gatherings and in car-rides. Norzom liked the images of chortens that are very familiar. Children were able to relate to chortens they have seen in the past - in Santa Fe, Bir-India, Kathmandu etc. Pema pointed out that the masks of monkeys stood out to her as an animal symbol that come in dreams such as a crow or a raven, a concept she learned in school last year. She thought Phur is a very unique song, “I think Phur does not mean really flying but that it means…trying out and that just trying is good enough.”
Children read the lyrics of Phur and asked what "fate" meant. As a mother, I had to think carefully and felt a little nervous in trying to explain the concept of fate to a child without alluding any limitations attached to it. As usual, children always surprise us with their wild imagination and intelligence. Pema was quick to point, “so fate can be something that can be changed too”. She was able to relate to women fighting for voting rights - we had talked about it last year, in school and she said, “In a book that my aunty Amrita gave me, it showed that how women fought for voting rights and now, my Ama can vote, other women can vote”. An eight year old girl sees that fate is something that is not stagnant and can be changed.
Machik Khabda’s study guides that accompany each session is very well thought out and a pleasure to read and discuss. It is a treat to have such a solid curriculum that allows us to learn about our Tibetan sisters and brothers in Tibet and provide a space for discussion. I had heard about Pekar (featured for 2nd Khabda) years ago with her sculptural works but never knew about her poetry, essays and her struggles. I found her work very empowering as a Tibetan woman raising two daughters.
Written by Katie Cunningham
Machik Program Intern & Rising Senior at Sidwell Friends School
I’ve listened to ANU's “Phur” over 75 times throughout my summer internship at Machik, but I nonetheless felt the lively energy and buzz around last Saturday’s Khabda. Once again, I was stunned by ANU’s talent, resilience, and ability to transcend language barriers. All non-Tibetans in attendance noted their music’s ability to bring tears to one's eyes without even glancing at the lyrics, which only further enhanced the emotion. Over the past eight weeks, I’ve researched Anu Ranglug, translated articles from Chinese to English to provide context for the phenomena that is ANU, and gathered various data points for our ANU infographic (such as YouTube hits for their videos). At the end of the day, I learned the most about ANU's music and its social impact by sitting down with a diverse group of people who share a common interest and curiosity for Tibet.
Amidst my research, I didn’t fully comprehend what ANU’s role in the wider community of "hip-hop" meant. Although the genre originated in the Bronx, New York City, it has spread to nearly every corner of the globe, including Tibet. While global hip hop artists acknowledge and honor the African American and Latinx community that launched the movement, local culture and sound are often incorporated into their music. ANU is no exception; Gonpa and Payag brilliantly blend modern rap and hip hop with traditional Tibetan folk music.
Throughout the history of hip hop as a culture, people from diverse backgrounds utilize this medium to articulate their lived experiences and stories which may often be completely erased or forgotten. As our DC Khabda group dissected ANU’s music videos, lyrics, and clothing brand, I discovered a new meaning behind their creative production. “Fly”’s underlying sociocultural message and ANU’s conscious decision to perform a cover of “Apologize” in front of a majority Chinese audience were stunning to me. Another layer that was uncovered during our discussion was their creative use of double-speak. 1376, in their accent, sounds like the Tibetan phrase, “What you think, you can accomplish.”
While ANU’s music, dance, and dress are upbeat, catchy, and fun, it also provides extreme value to Tibet and beyond.
Written by Lekey Leidecker
As the Machik team scoured the internet in Tibetan, English, and Chinese for information about ANU, who captivated Tibetan audiences inside and outside Tibet with their song འཕུར་ (En: Fly) in 2017, I kept wondering to myself: how can we get the world to care about Tibet and hip hop, or to even put the two in the same sentence?
In our process of outreach for each Khabda, we try to spread the word in a number of ways: through social media, through our networks, and are fortunate to have started receiving outreach from new folks who are interested in the featured topics.
This time, I remembered that our friend and collaborator, Deon Ben of Diné (Navajo) Nation, had shared something wonderful with me when we last met in November 2018, a convening of the Colorado Plateau Intertribal Conversations Gathering, held on the lands of the Isleta Pueblo and convened by the Grand Canyon Trust.
Deon, his parents, and additional Diné community members Sunny Dooley and Tony Skrelunas had just participated in Machik’s largest gathering, the 12th Annual Machik Weekend in New York City, and Deon’s parents, Violet and DJ, had heard a Tibetan song there that they’d enjoyed. I realized that the song was none other than ANU’s sensational crossover global hit འཕུར་ (En: Fly), meaning that the Ben family had joined a global cohort of ANU fans, and that the Gonpa’s beautifully worded sentiment of “extending your wings of freedom” had, unsurprisingly, reached Navajo Nation!
As I wrote the discussion guide for this Khabda, it was Violet and DJ who I had in mind: two Diné elders who actually share many traditions with the Nangchen community in Tibet where Gonpa and Payag are from: farming and ranching, deep relationships to place and homeland. How could I share more about ANU to people who, like our Diné friends, respond to ANU’s music but may not have the same knowledge about contemporary Tibet that I do?
So, why should you, or anyone else care about Tibet, hip hop, and ANU’s music? My answer is this: In a time of rapid change for Tibet and for the world, ANU illustrates the power of music to connect, uplift, and inspire. Like all good music, ANU makes the listener feel something powerful. The name ANU, also known as ཨ་ནུ་རིང་ལུགས་ (En: Anu Ranglug), is a Tibetan phrase in English loosely meaning “youthfulness.” It also evokes a spirit of energetic hopefulness, of joy, of “believ[ing] in the wonders of life.” We are blessed with ANU’s joyous and youthful spirit, and, as evidenced by their fan base, Anu Ranglug can happen at any age, anywhere.
Written by Tenzin Dickyi
Machik Program Intern & Senior at Colgate University
The 4th Machik Khabda (MK4) was a really fun one to be part of. Not only did my parents get to be part of it, but I spent the last month listening to ANU’s music and learning so much about them prior to Khabda. While the Khabda in Washington, DC was held mainly in English, I am so grateful that my parents were there to experience it. They did not speak out during the conversation because they are very shy, but afterwards my parents could not stop talking about ANU. They wanted to know if my brothers knew who ANU were and had the song GAGA stuck in their heads for days. They were in awe of the Tibetan duo making waves through music. Neither of them listen to a lot of music nor do they think about the impact of Tibetan hip hop artists from Tibet, but this Khabda got them thinking about contemporary Tibetan artists. I enjoy Khabda so much because of the way it gets Tibetans and non-Tibetans of all ages thinking and talking about Tibetan creatives in Tibet.
During this Khabda, something that I couldn’t get out of my mind is the way that hip hop culture and Tibetan culture combine to make ANU’s music and clothing brand. Growing up as a Tibetan in the United States, I have watched my culture be appropriated. Even before I knew what cultural appropriation was, I remember feeling annoyed. I noticed that some people could profit from Tibetan culture without fully understanding or crediting the meaning and history. From this experience, I also learned to be sensitive to others’ feelings based on something I may have done. During Khabda, we talked about the the word “Tigga” and its use in Tibet. Someone at the Khabda brought up how a rapper who went by the name of “Rich Chigga” changed their name to “Rich Brian” after coming to the U.S. from Indonesia. They told us about how once the rapper learned about the history of the n-word, he felt uncomfortable keeping his former name. I think this is important to remember because it is possible that ANU and other rappers in Tibet may not have full access to the meaning and context of it all. ANU is clearly influenced by Black-American creativity, through clothes or music. Figuring out the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation is difficult, especially in this special context. It is still something that I am thinking about, beyond the conversation that occured during Khabda. I am thrilled that Khabda gave everyone a space to explore these dynamics as well as learn about these incredible creatives in Tibet!
Written by Katie Jarrett
Machik Program Intern & Senior at George Washington University
This past Saturday evening our Khabda room filled with the voices of 20+ people who enthusiastically discussed the music duo, ANU, and the social impact of their music. Here in Washington D.C., we listened to ANU's songs and viewed their music videos, interspersing these activities with lively discussion. The conscious decision to listen to some songs without visual cues and then later watch music videos created an audiovisual sensory experience that helped to provoke creative thinking. Our Khabda focused on ANU in the broader context of rap and hip-hop; music genres that act as avenues of cultural and social expression. We even discussed the historical and cultural significance of hip-hop; making sure to honor the birthplace of hip-hop at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.
We followed the path of ANU's development into a global phenomenon and the sociocultural meaning of such development. Frequently mentioned was the fact that ANU has existed long before this year's performance on the Chinese show "Singer," which some view as having catapulted ANU to fame. The "Singer" performance was discussed at length, especially in consideration to ANU's use of Tibetan, English, and Chinese languages. The perception of ANU by mainstream Chinese audiences is something that a commenter noted as having drastically changed the quality of the duo's music. Creative ability was clearly stifled as can be seen in the dramatic differences between the most recent music video and earlier ones. Within the context of modern day censorship, ANU's ability to continue representing classic elements of Tibetan cultural identity is inspiration and uplifting. To me, ANU's ability to retain such elements reflects stark realities of the difficulties of preserving cultural traditions in the face of overwhelming pressures of globalization and cultural homogeny. ANU is a member of a larger phenomenon in which artists use music as both a tool to disseminate cultural expression as well as a preservation technique for cultural traditions.
Many felt strongly that the challenges facing ANU's ability to retain creative expression are also reflected in how little information can be found in English on these two young men. As one of the participants said, "a creative group in Tibet today can tell us a lot about what's going on in Tibet today." Hip-hop is an extremely important cultural phenomenon as a place of expression, especially within the context of complex social media. ANU, as representative of how influential hip-hop is, has been extremely influential on young people (within the Tibetan community and even outside of Tibet). I found ANU's decision to center on the hip-hop/rap genre extremely brave; as one of my friends in Beijing once mentioned, the majority of music and media in the PRC and regions is oversaturated in the love song/story genre, because this is the easiest way to fly under the censorship radars. Hip-hop, with its long history as a form of social expression, can be an especially provocative genre.
One person commented that Tibetan music coming out of Tibet, when compared to Tibetan music in diaspora, has much more depth and purpose. When you listen to ANU, you listen to it but your consciousness, mental space, and heart are all somewhere else. This became especially clear to me through our Khabda when we alternated between listening to songs and watching the music videos. This way of music consumption reveals distinct layers of ANU's music. On the surface level is of course the lyrics, but visual elements are just as packed with depth of meaning.
ANU is an avenue to reality underneath dominant narratives about Tibet. Looking at Tibet through the lens of hip-hop gives us a unique way to understand the complexity of contemporary Tibet. Subsequently, the representation of Tibet and Tibetan culture through ANU is extremely important in its implications. Language usage in ANU's music, as mentioned before, holds an extremely important message. They're (referring to ANU) trying to say something, and it's working to a great extent. Very clearly, ANU represents the importance of music in cultural identity. This is especially apparent in the song "Phur". "Phur" is THE anthem, showing how identity can be exerted in different cultural forms. As was discussed during our Khabda, many of the terms in "Phur" have roots in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy containing connotations that are not necessarily conveyed in other languages. Equally so, the language in the song , how the roots of words are formed, of how words come together to form longer sentences, and the context of Tibetan culture all demonstrate the many different aspects that come together to form Tibetan culture. The message of the song also conveys a distinctive experience that Tibetans listening to might relate.
In conclusion, our Khabda on ANU became extremely involved and the enthusiasm of speakers was palatable. The people within our Khabda room happily talked for hours about ANU and the messages they convey. It was a very lively discussion, far away from where ANU actually performs, demonstrating just how impactful their music is.
ཕྱི་ལོ་ ༢༠༡༩ ཟླ་ ༦ ཚེས་ ༢༢ ཉིན་ཨ་རིའི་མངའ་སྡེ་ཨི་ལི་རྣོའི་གྲོང་ཁྱེར་ཅི་ཀ་ཀོར་མ་གཅིག་ཁ་བརྡ་ཐེངས་གསུམ་པ་དེ་ཚོགས་རྒྱུའི་གོ་སྐབས་འབྱུང། དེར་མཉམ་ཞུགས་གནང་མཁན་མི་གྲངས་ ༡༥ ཙམ་ཕེབས་སོང་ལ་འདི་ནི་སྔར་གྱི་ཁ་བརྡ་ལས་ལྡབ་བཞིའི་མང་བ་ཡིན་པའི་དགའ་འཚོར་ཆེན་པོ་འབྱུང། ཐེངས་འདིའི་ཁ་བརྡའི་བརྗོད་གཞི་ནི་མཁར་བྱམས་རྒྱལ་གྱིས་བཟོ་བསྐྲུན་གནང་པའི་གློག་བརྙན་ “དཔའ་བོའི་ལུང་པ” ཞེས་པ་དེ་རེད། གློག་བརྙན་འདིའི་བརྗོད་བྱ་སྙིང་པོ་ནི་བོད་མདོ་སྨད་བྱང་ཤར་ཁུལ་དུ་ཡོད་པའི་དཔའ་བོའི་ལུང་པའི་ཡུལ་མིས་མྱོང་བཞིན་པའི་བོད་ཀྱི་སྐད་ཡིག་དོར་རླག་ཏུ་འགྲོ་བའི་ཛ་དྲག་གི་གནས་སྟངས་ཀྱི་སྐོར་ལ་ཡིན། ཡུལ་དེར་ཕ་མེས་ཀྱི་དུས་སུ་ཕལ་ཆེར་བོད་རིགས་མང་ཡང། དེང་སྐབས་བོད་རིགས་གྲངས་ཉུང་མི་རིགས་ཤིག་ཏུ་འགྱུར་ཡོད་སྟབས། རྒྱ་གཞུང་གིས་བོད་མི་རིགས་ཀྱི་སྐད་ཡིག་སྲུང་སྐྱོབ་སླད་དམིགས་བསལ་གྱི་རོགས་རམ་དང་མཐུན་རྐྱེན་གང་ཡང་མི་གནང་བས་བོད་ཀྱི་སྐད་ཡིག་བེད་སྤྱོད་བྱེད་པའི་གོམས་སྲོལ་རིམ་བཞིན་མེད་དུ་སོང་བའི་ཉེན་ཁ་ཤུགས་ཆེན་ཡོད་པ་ནི་དངོས་གསལ་བདེ་པོ་རེད། དེ་མིན་ལུང་ཁུགས་དེའི་སྡོད་མི་ཕལ་ཆེ་བ་ཁ་ཆེ་ཡིན་པ་དང་གློག་བརྙན་འདིའི་རྒྱུད་བོད་རིགས་ཁ་ཆེའི་སྐོར་ཤེས་རྒྱུའི་གོ་སྐབས་བཟང་པོ་ཞིག་ཀྱང་ཐོབ་བྱུང་དྲན།
གློག་བརྙན་འདི་བལྟས་ཟིན་རྗེས་འཛོམ་ཞུགས་གནང་མཁན་ཚོའི་ཁྲོད་དུ་མྱོང་ཚོར་དང་བསམ་འཚུལ་འདྲ་མིན་སྣ་ཚོགས་འབྱུང་སོང། ཁ་ཅིག་གིས་ཧ་ལས་པའི་གནས་ཚུལ་ལ་དེ་འདྲའི་ཡུལ་ཁུགས་དེའི་བོད་རིགས་རྣམས་ལ་སྐད་ཡིག་སྲུང་སྐྱོབ་དང་འབྲེལ་འཕྲད་པའི་དཀའ་ངལ་དང་ཨ་རི་གཙོས་ནུབ་ཕྱོགས་པའི་ས་ཁུལ་དུ་འཚོ་གནས་བཞིན་པའི་བོད་རིགས་རྣམས་ཀྱི་དཀའ་ངལ་ཤིན་ཏུ་མཚུངས་པར་མཐོང། དེ་མིན་ཁ་ཤས་ཀྱིས་ནམ་རྒྱུན་དུ་ནས་ཕལ་མོ་ཆེའི་སྣང་ཚུལ་ལ་བོད་པ་ཞེས་པ་དེ་དང་ནང་པ་སངས་རྒྱས་པའི་ཆོས་ལ་དད་གུས་བྱེད་མཁན་གྱི་བོད་རིགས་གཉིས་དོན་གཅིག་ཡིན་པར་ཤར་པ་ཡོད་ཀྱང། གནས་ཚུལ་དུ་བོད་རིགས་ཁྲོད་དུ་ཡང་ཁ་ཆེ་དང་བོན་པོ་བཅས་ནང་པ་མ་ཡིན་པའི་ཆོས་ལུགས་ཉམས་ལེན་བྱེད་མཁན་ཡོད་པ་ཤེས་རྒྱུ་གལ་ཆེ་དྲན།
དེ་རིང་གི་ཁ་བརྡ་འདིར་ཕེབས་མཁན་གཞོན་སྐྱེས་ཁ་ཤས་ཀྱིས་རང་ལ་བོད་པ་ཡིན་པའི་འདུ་ཤེས་དང་འཚོར་སྣང་ཤུགས་ཆེན་ཡོད་སྐོར་བཤད་སོང། ཁོང་ཚོས་ཀྱང་བཙན་བྱོལ་སྤྱི་ཚོགས་ནང་དུ་བོད་ཀྱི་སྐད་ཡིག་གི་ཤེས་ཚད་ཉམས་རྒུད་འགྲོ་བཞིན་ཡོད་པ་དང། འདི་ཉིད་མི་ཉམས་རྒྱུན་འཛིན་དང་ཉམས་པ་སླར་གསོ་བྱེད་རྒྱུའི་ཐབས་ལམ་མི་འདྲ་བ་འཚོལ་རྒྱུ་ཤིན་ཏུ་གལ་ཆེར་མཐོང།
དེ་མིན་ང་ཚོས་སྤྱིར་བཏང་སྐད་ཡིག་དང་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་གཅིག་གི་ངོ་བོའི་བར་གྱི་འབྲེལ་བའི་སྐོར་མང་ཙམ་གླེངས་པ་ཡིན། བོད་སྐད་ལྟ་བུར་དཔེ་བཞག་ན་བོད་མི་རིགས་ཀྱི་སྲོག་རྩ་ལྟ་བུ་ཡིན་པ་ནམ་རྒྱུན་དུ་ནས་བཤད་ཀྱི་ཡོད་ཀྱང། ང་ཚོས་གླེང་མོལ་དེ་ཆ་ཚང་དབྱིན་སྐད་ཐོག་བྱེད་པ་ཡིན་ཡང་ང་ཚོར་བོད་པ་ཡིན་པའི་འདུ་ཤེས་དང་མི་རིགས་གཅིག་པའི་འཚོར་སྣང་སླུ་བ་མེད་པ་ཞིག་ཏན་ཏན་རང་རྒྱུད་ལ་སྐྱེད་འབྱུང།
མཐའ་མར་ཁ་བརྡའི་མཇུག་སྡོམ་དུ་སྔར་གཏོང་བའི་དྲི་བར་ལན་འདེབས་རྒྱུ་ཕར་བཞག་དེ་ལས་ལྷག་པའི་དྲི་བ་མང་པོ་ཞིག་སེམས་ལ་གསར་དུ་འཁོར་འབྱུང། འདི་ནི་ཤེས་ཡོན་དོན་མཉེར་ཅན་དང་རིགས་པའི་རྗེས་དྲངས་པའི་བདེན་པ་འཚོལ་ཐབས་ཀྱི་ལམ་གྱི་རང་བཞིན་ཡིན་པ་འདྲ། བཅས་དེ་འདྲ་བའི་གནད་དོན་མང་པོར་བསམ་གཞིག་བྱེད་རྒྱུའི་གོ་སྐབས་བཟང་པོ་དེ་ཐོབ་པར་དགའ་འཚོར་དང་སླར་ཡང་མཉམ་འཛོམས་བྱེད་རྒྱུ་ཡོང་བའི་རེ་སྨོན་ཤུགས་ཆེན་བྱེད་བཞིན་ཡོད།
Written by Tenzin Rabga, MK Chicago Host
We had a very vibrant and thought-provoking discussion following the screening of the film “Valley of the Heroes” by Khashem Gyal. Beginning with the subject matter of the film and the issues and themes addressed therein, our discussions branched out on to a variety of topics ranging from the role of language in our community, to the ways in which we can assure its preservation.
Many of the participants were struck by the similarities of the challenges faced by the residents of the Hualong community in tackling the loss of Tibetan language, and the ones faced by the communities here in the US and elsewhere in the diaspora. Despite the stark differences in the life style and the socio-economic situations, both of these communities are faced with the same fundamental threats of the inevitability of the loss of spoken and written Tibetan. We also delved into more fundamental explorations of the role of language in the formation of individual as well as communal/national identities. Clearly, ours appears to be inseparably tied to our culture and the notion of being a Tibetan, yet it was worth noting that we had the entirety of our discussions in English while still retaining a sense of shared community.
We also touched upon the deep connections between religion and our identities, how most of us think of ourselves as Tibetan Buddhist and how being Tibetan is almost synonymous with being Buddhists. However, as we saw in the film, there are others in our community, minorities who are not Buddhists, with an undeniable sense of Tibetan-ness.
Our discussions naturally led us into practical issues of ways in which to ensure that Tibetan language is preserved and passed on to the next generations of Tibetans born in exile, particularly in the west. Many of the younger individuals in attendance shared their experiences of benefits of immersing themselves in the community and spending prolonged times in Tibetan societies in order to retain their language usage and abilities. Amongst the slightly older individuals there was an imminent sense of urgency and uncertainty regarding ways to introduce and instill a sense of appreciation for the Tibetan language in their children.
As with many such discussions surrounding fundamental issues of personal and communal identities, we were left with more questions to ponder than with answers to seek solace in. However, we were all very encouraged by the initiative and the eagerness with which we were able to gather and have this very intimate and candid discussion about issues of shared concern and importance. Of the many suggestions and opinions, we felt that it was important, as we navigate these terrains both individually and as a group, to try and carve out our own paths and reach our own realizations as to the importance of Tibetan language and culture, and find conducive ways to ensure its preservation for the generations yet to come.
Written by Katie Cunningham
Machik Program Intern & Rising Senior at Sidwell Friends School
After greeting Khabda-goers at the door of Machik headquarters in Washington DC, I was eager to sit and watch Khashem Gyal’s Valley of the Heroes, despite having already seen it a week prior. The second time around I was even more grateful for Khashem’s extreme bravery in highlighting two major contemporary changes-- language loss and Islamic practice in Tibet -- in one documentary. I explained my fascination with the color-coded subtitles differentiating between languages within communities and even families with the group, which consisted of Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike. We discussed topics ranging from how language is a part of one’s identity and what this change means for the future of Tibet, but the conversation was dominated by the exploration of the dangers behind a singular narrative.
Young Tibetan men and women shared their childhood beliefs that Tibet was mountains and yaks and prayer flags, but Khashem’s film brilliantly shattered those stereotypes by redefining Tibet as a culturally and religiously diverse region. While the Tibetan Muslim community may only account for 0.4% of the population, it is important to recognize their existence and importance.
I was inspired by Machik’s third Khabda and its attendees, and cannot wait to see what Khabda 4 holds!