Gallery - Past Exhibitions - 2005 - Changpa
(Click image for slideshow)
In the fall of 2004 I returned to the Himalayas and to the nomads (Changpa), who live on the Tibetan Plateau, along the India - Tibet frontier. Once again I travelled with my friend Phuntsog Angchok to Changthang to resume the work I started there in 2003 (see nomads 2003) . I stayed mainly with the Kharnakpa, a tribe of about 200 Ladakhi nomads that I lived with the year before.
I found that much had changed in the passing year for the Kharnakpa, including having to endure a severe drought that threatened the well being of their animals and even their ability to survive as nomads. Phuntsog and I also visited the Changpa tribes of Rupsu, Korzok and Ankhoam. I was privileged once again to witness the trials and rewards of their nomadic life and fortunate to be allowed further access into their astounding culture and their little known world.
The following is an except from Allen Smutylo's book Nomads of the Himalayas, to be published in 2006.
At 4:30 am, still without any appreciable sign of morning light, a call went out across the valley. In unison the entire tribe of Kharnakpa, each person and every family, with their possessions atop their yaks, together with their dogs and horses got up and started moving, as if they were one. I was startled at the precision of it, particularly given the hour's lack of any light. As we got up to leave the glow of Jigmad's fire, I gave Phuntsog a raised eyebrow look. He looked back straight faced with smiling eyes.
The idea that I, along with 44 families had just packed up and were departing in complete and utter darkness, with everything we owned, was one of the craziest things I had ever seen or done. As I ventured a few paces away from the light of the fire I started laughing aloud, it was like walking with my eyes closed, I had no idea where I was going. My feet stumbled and stepped on rock outcrops, bits of unidentifiable stuff and something that had the feel of fresh dung. As I went, I was vaguely aware of something to my left, but I didn't know what. Suddenly a loud nostril snort vaporized my face. By the deep reverb from its exhale and the weight of its step, I guessed it was one of the large male yaks. I raised my hand as a guard to protect my eyes against a possible goring from the beast's sharp horns. Seemingly startled too, it bellowed in annoyance as its hooves clattered a hurried change of course.
Gradually the procession was silhouetted against the grey light of predawn. The new born and the aged, nursing mothers and young men, assorted dogs and small children: 200 people, a thousand yaks, in a scene as old as the thread of human history itself.
The caravan moved west. At day break the sun's rays were caught in clouds of wind whipped dust on the lee side of four thousand trudging hooves. A tapestry of nomadic life gradually emerged; archaic, textural and tied tight to the quickened pulse of hope and fear. Forty horses and riders escorted the slow motion procession west. The sound of singing, whistling and coaxing, was countered with snorting, barking and baying. Blackened cauldrons, kettles, burlap and silk, grain and rice, old Tibetan Buddhist prayer books, rich multi coloured carpets and blankets, folded rebos - their heavy yak haired tents, brass ladles, wooden poles, butter churners, and their other valued possessions were bundled and tied to the massive black forms of the male yaks. A dark slow flowing river of life through desert sand - humans and beasts, bones and blood, leather and silk, parchment and wood - it stretched for two kilometres along the arid expanse of the Lungmoche Valley.
Exhibitions of Allen Smutylo's recent work include: - Circle Arts, Tobermory, opening May 20, 2006 - Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto, Fall, 2006 - Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, 2007 (travelling exhibition) See the Galleries page for details of these galleries.
"Life on the Edge - The Tibetan Buddhists of the Himalayas" Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning (BALL) lecture series March 2, 9, 16, 23, 2006 Bayshore Community Centre, Owen Sound, ON, Canada invisible
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