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!