Written by Khando Langri
Machik Program Intern & Senior at McGill University
Machik’s third Khabda showcasing Tibetan filmmaker Khashem Gyal’s documentary Valley of the Heroes was the first event I have ever attended which curated content in a way that fosters global discussions about Tibet. Valley of the Heroes is an intimate portrait which explores memory, language and place by filming everyday life in a Tibetan Muslim community in Hualong County. In interviewing people from different generations, from elders all the way to children, Khashem shows us the radical transformation of the way of life of the people of the community. Language is the axis of the film, site of both trauma and resilience. Khashem exposes us to the complex relationship community members have to both Tibetan and Chinese, the former taught in makeshift schools by volunteers in an attempt to preserve culture and the latter acting as the language of upward social mobility. This film allowed us to have a better understanding of Tibet’s contemporary languagescape and discuss it as a group in a respectful and nuanced way.
What moved me the most was seeing a Tibetan mosque and more broadly how Islam shapes Tibetan landscapes. This urged me to interrogate my own understandings of Tibetanness and reconsider who I think about when I think about Tibetans inside Tibet. I am beginning to realize that Tibetan identity is vibrant and diverse. Having a space that allows Tibetans and allies to explore the multiplicity of Tibetan experience and identity such as Machik Khabda is truly exciting and I look forward to future discussions!