Inside the Outsider Exhibition: A Review from Exile Tibetan
Youth activism in Taiwan is one of the most vibrant compared with its neighbouring countries like Japan, South Korea, and many South-East Asian countries. Such remarkable youth activisms can be witnessed from their advocacy to protect human rights and democratic principles, gender equality, protection of migrants’ labour and stateless nationalities, and other issues. On the 15th December, a curator Tsai Ping-Ju and artist LI Kuei-Pi organised the second exhibition titled “Inside the Outsider”, in association with Students for a Free Tibet and Zone Art. The concept “Inside the Outsider” emphasises on “becoming an outsider” for various reasons, including colonialism, gender discrimination, racial stereotyping, etc. Therefore, it attempts to bring diverse artists who present their advocacy for concern issue through various medium and methods.
There are eight different artists with four major themes: women issue, Tibet issue, a recreation of history and assimilation with the majority. Tsering Motup Siddho presented an untitled project that consists of 3 smartphones playing videos inside a DIY projector. On peeping through the convex lenses, the viewer sees him sharing his memory with three different places through three different languages. His decision to share his memory through three different languages is an expression of his adaptation to the languages and cultures of the areas that is contrast to his identity and an effort to fit within society that he is not familiar with.
Rajnish Chhanesh is another artist from New Delhi, capital of India. The project titled “Scooped Story” highlighted how we often displace past to recreate new history. Rajnish emphasises on rediscovering past and says the essence of recreating history is an upheaval for questioning their very essence of staying silent and buried in sands of time.
Shrabani Dasgupta and Manmeet Sandhu based in New Delhi have been vocal about gender equality and women rights. Both of them are pioneers in telling stories through comics, sequential arts and graphic novel. One of their major projects includes a magazine called Mahila(translated as women) is a women-oriented Zine published a year thrice by an artist collective called Vichar k Achaar. Mahila aims to create a sustainable space for women artists to freely share their perspective on a range of issue from personal to social and political.
Tenzing Rigdol, Tenzin Tsetan Choklay Tsai Yung-Ching and Li Kuei-Pi. Tsai focuses on Tibet issue, including exile Tibetan in India. Tenzing Rigdol, Tenzin Tsetan Choklay and Tsai Yung-Ching theme are similar and concentrated on exile Tibetan. However, Li Kuei-Pi emphasis primarily about the identity issue of exile Tibetan.
With the comprehensive sets of issues, the exhibition forms a vital platform to discuss issues that are considered taboo because of the power politics at the societal and political level. Nevertheless, I was drawn more towards the project that focuses on the Tibet issue.
Among three different sets of presentation on the Tibet issue, I was more drawn towards Tsai Yung Chin’s Five minutes. It brought back the same anguish and helpless emotion whenever we see movie about how we lost our country to China and forced my fellow country people to escape to India. Somewhere, I am grateful that many Tibetan flee to India, and they can tell the truth and remind the younger generation about the same. If our ancestors have not escaped, we would be in the cage and outside world would have no idea of the Chinese authoritarian rule.
Being born in exile and as an exile Tibetan, I have grown up watching documentaries and short movies about the same subject. I have amble of understanding about the issue. Nevertheless, several aspects of Tsai’s Five Minutes hit hard on me. Firstly, unlike documentary movies or another short film about the same; that has a sound effect and visual treatment that can help create stories more compelling. The Play is mainly dependent on script and actors. Furthermore, the Play’s whole set was dependent on a simple white colour background at one location, and it was exigent to capture and deliver excellent performance. Regardless of these challenges, the Play executed eloquently with dialogue that hooked the audience emotion throughout the Play. This was my first time watching a play about escaping Tibet that contains the full script and very raw in the execution. Second is the thought process, and there are two timelines as well plots of the Play; the first was the conversation that took place before departure, and the second was an incident that happened after arrived in exile. The Play successfully captured the dynamics and challenges of escaping Tibet through these two plots.
The intimate conversation between parents and children had before five minutes of their separation contain many small details that we often failed to see in a documentary or short movies. The conversation emotionally wrecked me, and it has many attributes. The conversation involves why parents were sending their children to India, their expectations, and the stakes involved in sending their children to India. There are two objectives why parent sends their children to India: one is for better education, including proficient in Tibetan languages and second is to live with freedom and dignity. Primarily for these purposes, some parents even sold some of the family’s valuable possession. Also, both parents and children were ready to take the risk of military surveillance that might jeopardise their children escape and might instead land them in prison. At the worst case, the military personnel might shoot them to death. This explains the magnitude of the fight for freedom and dignity of life and the importance of education, especially learning the Tibetan language, which is absent under the Chinese government rule. The Play was impactful in a way that through few dialogues it manifested why Tibetan escape to India. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the “Five Minute” play was written by students who were also actors of the same Play who had escaped from Tibet to India. The dialogue presented was a first-hand perspective and based on their personal life.
Another incident that pinches me was when five minute before the separation, parents of children went to buy water for their daughter; however, due to departure time, the daughter failed to meet and lost her final opportunity bit goodbye to her parents. The conversation that the daughter had with her parent was the last conversation between them.
The second plot, set after being in an exile was when the daughter received a letter about her mother, who was no more. In exile Tibet, there are thousands of children have not met their family for decades, and many lost their parents and family while in exile. We failed to see such small details in a documentary produced about the same subject. The daughter regretted letting her parents buy water, if they have not gone for water, would have final and proper opportunity bit each other goodbye.
Tsai’s play “Five Minute” was emotionally captivating and offered many small details that we failed to see in many documentaries about the same subject.
Another short film about Tibet titled “Bringing Tibet Home” involves two Tibetan artists Tenzing Rigdol and Tenzin Tsetan Choklay. Bringing Tibet Home is a short documentary film about Tenzing Rigdol, who trafficked Soil from Tibet through Nepal and brought it to Dharamsala, where the Tibetan government in exile is stationed. Soil is considered a precious procession of a citizen, and it resonates a sense of belonging and ownership of a territory. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, exile Tibetan has lost that ownership and still longing to go back to Tibet. His performance with Soil he brought from Tibet was reminders for many second and third generations have that we have our own country and shall go back one day. Tenzin Tsetan Choklay captured the whole incident, including how it was trafficked from Tibet through Nepal and presented to Tibetan in exile. He produced it into a short film titled “Bringing Tibet Home”. He won Young European Jury Award (Prix du Jury des Jeunes Européens) at the 27th edition of FIPA (International Festival of Audiovisual Programmes.
Both Tsai’s Five Minutes and Tenzing Rigdol and Tenzin Tsetan Choklay’s Bringing Tibet Home produced a different aspect of Tibet issue and Tibet history. Most importantly, it present one of the important aspects of Tibet political movement, that is how many of the second and the third generation of Tibetan who have not seen Tibet acquire a strong sense of nationalism towards their lost country. The same reason contributed towards Tibet political movement continues to remain strong despite China growing military and economic influence around the world. Both presentations successfully produced a raw emotion and spirit of nationalism among Tibetan younger generation.
Dolma Tsering was a dissertation fellow at the Taiwan Foundation of Democracy. She is a freelance writer and Ph.D student at China Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She is currently learning the Chinese language at National Chengchi University, Taipei.