Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ahmad Ibrahim - Tibetan Artists Silenced at Dhaka Art Summit

On the 7th of February, Tibetan artist Nortse and Indian artists Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam had their photographs and art installations removed at the behest of the Chinese ambassador to Dhaka from the Dhaka Art Summit taking place in Shilpakala Academy in the capital of Bangladesh. The art project by Nortse was titled Prayer Wheel, Big Brother and Automan (2007) which showed the artist don traditional Tibetan clothes along with modern objects to show the surveillance that marks their lives. 

NB: China entered the United Nations in 1971 (with Indian support) and immediately replaced Taiwan in the Security Council. In September 1972, it veto-ed Bangladesh's entry into the UN, against the support of 86 nations in the general assembly. This was the first use of the veto by China - DS

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam produced a piece called “Last Words”, which consists of five facsmilies of five last messages written by the self-immolators in Tibet, along with their English translations. Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam depicted Tibetan monks in the act of self-immolation as a way of political and religious protest against the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese government.

At the end of the 6th of February, both artists were still depicted on the walls of the Art Summit. On the 7th, what greeted the visitors and patrons were blank stretches of white wall with white frames. It was as if the works had never existed. This is not the first time the Chinese government has tried to shut down political art work that aims to show the real face of Chinese occupation of Tibet. What is even more reprehensible is that it happened inside the walls of an institution that was proclaiming itself to be a haven of bold art and artistic expression. 

That the Chinese government could go to such lengths to silence an exhibition happening thousands of miles away shows the depth of their oppression over an entire country. Since February 2009, 142 Tibetans have self-immolated in their homeland, 120 dying from their actions.