Gallery - Past Exhibitions - 2006 - Kharnak
(Click image for slideshow)
The timing of my arrival back to Ladakh in the fall of 2005 was, to use a favourite Tibetan Buddhist expression, 'auspicious'. It coincided with a major address the Dalai Lama was giving to the people of Leh. In the open air grounds beside the Dalai Lama's summer residence, he spoke on three consecutive mornings, giving two hour presentations to a gathering of 12,000. Most of the topics covered in the addresses were familiar themes of his; human ethics, the quest for happiness and contentment, and a discussion on universal responsibility.
Tibetan Buddhists from all over Ladakh came to hear their spiritual leader. For the first time in their lives, the Changpa en masse had left their encampments to gather in Leh for the address. During those first few days in Leh, I had the unusual sensation of regularly bumping into my nomad acquaintances on crowded city sidewalks.
For my Kharnak friends and the Changpa in general, last summer's drought was followed by a severe winter. The already large number of weakened animals were further culled by the winter's deep snow and cold temperatures. All together 60 yaks died by starvation or hungry wolves and snow leopards in Kharnak during the winter. There was similar news when I visited Korzok tribe, northwest of Kharnak; a tribe with deep roots in Bon shamanism. A nomad told me 70 out of her 170 sheep and goats were lost during winter to predator attacks and starvation. Across Changthang, who ever I talked to, the story was the same.
But the deep snow and a spring that came late, replenished the ground with moisture. In spring there was a relative surge of new vegetation on the land and with less animals and more grass, the sheep, goats and yaks put on weight and expanded in number. Pashmina and wool prices jumped. The money butchers were willing to pay for the Changpa's goats and sheep increased by a third. Even with the winter's losses, the morale of the nomads was much improved.
There were still a number of environmental concerns. Apart from the overall worry of a drying trend in the general character of the Himalayan climate, a more immediate threat had suddenly emerged. From Tibet, a plague of locust had arrived. The swarms were positioned at the edge of their territory, north of the Indus River. The grasshoppers were dusty brown in colour and frightfully large. They scooted across the ground like big dried oak leaves blown by the wind. And when they flew, hovered and sputtered in the air like the churning blades of Sikorsky helicopters. The below freezing night temperatures of October and the dying vegetation of the late fall season had managed to stop their advance, for now. This was a serious issue for all the nomads and farmers in eastern Ladakh. They and their animals couldn't share the already scant mountain vegetation with a million voracious, gigantic insects and survive.
I continued my nomad work in Changthang, gaining new insights into Kharnakpa life at their Yagang encampment as well as travelling into the camps of the Korzokpa near Korzok and the Anghoam tribe near Puga.
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.
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