Bjork screamed out “Free Tibet!” as she sang “Declare Independence” during her concert in China a few weeks ago. She was later panned by Chinese authorities as it is illegal to mention such an expression.
What an ironic dilemma – the Olympics, a time for sportsmanship and unity, is just a few months away yet there’s been chaos recently in Tibet, I mean, the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. This has led to many protests throughout the world, and rightfully so, as the Cultural Revolution of 1959 forced many Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, into exile. I was amused by a photo of two of the terracotta warriors displayed at the British Museum that were adorned with protest placards.
On a positive note, Tibetan contemporary art has recently spawned from this whole ordeal and continues to develop today. I was very fortunate enough to interview a few Tibetan artists for my MA dissertation two years ago, and I asked them how they felt about the Chinese occupation. Most of them saw the positive aspects of it, and if anything, favored autonomy, like the Dalai Lama. Around the same time, a London-based art gallery exhibited both Western and Tibetan artists’ work in conjunction with the Lhasa Express inauguration. The most interesting aspect that I got from this exhibition was that even though the artwork from the Western artists had a more negative view of the Lhasa Express, the Tibetan artists were either neutral or even positive about the train. The latter are just people wanting to progress with the rest of the world and avoid this whole “Shangri-La” myth.
It’s just unfortunate that the demonstrations in Tibet have resulted in fatalities – the numbers range from just a few to a few hundred. It’s uncertain as the Chinese government is preventing anyone from documenting what’s really going on. No matter what happens, let’s just hope the violence ends. Peace and one love everyone!