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06:57Tibetian Portrait by Phil Borges
I have nothing to say about that, you just have to see!
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Jigme and Sonam are sisters whose nomadic family had just come down from the Himalayan highlands to their 16,500 ft. winter camp on the Tibetan Plateau. When I gave Jigme a Polaroid of herself she looked at it, squealed and ran into her tent. I assumed that this was one of the only times she had seen herself since her family did not own a mirror.
Jigme, 8 years; Sonam, 18 months
Yama came with her parents and three sisters on a 6 week pilgrimage to the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa from the province of Kham. “Yama helped carry our 10 month old daughter much of the way.” Her father said. “We noticed very early that she was born with the true spirit of wanting to help others.”
Yama, 8y.o.; Lhasa Tibet
Pusung and Dundup are father and son. I arrived at their 17,000 ft. nomad camp early in December on a very cold windy day. They had just finished offering prayers prior to sacrificing two yaks for their winters food supply. Everything was so primal. It seemed like an imaginary scene from two hundred years ago on the North American plains.
Pusang, 64; Dundup, 32; Puga Valley, Ladakh
Tseten was almost 50 when he was forced to give up his large herd of goats and yaks and flee Tibet. He is now one of 2,000 Tibetans living in a refugee camp near Choglamsar, Ladakh where he has only one goat and a small plot of ground to grow some vegetables. He said”because of my Buddhist training I am happy living anywhere”.
Tseten, 81; Choglamsar, Ladaka
Shelo and Benba, best friends since childhood, are currently working as hostel maids in Nyalam, an old Tibetan village that has recently become a stop over for climbers on their way to Mt. Everest. As Tibetans they are rapidly becoming an insignifacant minority in their own country because of the massive influx of Chinese into Tibet.
Shelo, 20; Benba, 17; Nyalam, Tibet
Dolma had never seen a westener up close before. She would reach out, touch my shoulder then quickly pull her arm back into her chuba and laugh. As a young girl she had escaped across the Tibet-India border with her family after word reached their remote nomad camp that they would be forced to live in a commune.
Doma, 38; Changtang, Ladakh
Norzum vividly remembers fleeing Tibet with his family as a boy. Walking at night and hiding during the day, it took over 20 days to cross the border into Ladakh. During the bitter cold journey, at altitudes above 16,000 feet, his younger brother died. He says that the area in which he is now forced to live is much harsher than his boyhood home
Norzum, 44; Tzo Morari, Ladakh
Lobsang and 66 fellow monks were imprisoned in 1959. When released 21 years later, he was one of only three survivors. While in prison his best friend, a rinpoche, died in his arms. Tensin was later discovered to be the reincarnation of that friend. Lobsang said there are so many characteristics of his old friend in the young boy.
Logsang, 66; Tensin, 13; Bodhnath, Nepal
Tsezim and Decky are old friends. They were among the 100,000 Tibetans who fled from Tibet in 1959, along with the Dalai Lama. Decky’s husband was killed during the uprising, but her five children escaped with her. She settled and raised her children in Dharamsala which is currently the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile.
Tsezim, 78; Decky, 72; Dharamsala, India
Pemba had come to the little village of Trak Tok with her mother and sister to see the highly elaborate and beautiful shum dance festival on this sunny but bitterly cold December day. She caught my eye in the crowd because of her look of fascination and total concentration on the dancers. She seemed to be transfixed during the entire ceremony in spite of the constant cold wind.
Pemba, 4; Trak Tok, Ladakh
Samden came to Ganden Monastery at the age of 12. Once the pinnacle of Tibet’s university-like monasteries, Ganden was completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution along with all but 11 of Tibet’s 6,200 monasteries. Samden was 44 when the bombing occured and has recently returned to help with of some of the rebuilding.
Samden, 72; Ganden Monastery, Tibet
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