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Tibetan Artist Transports Twenty Tonnes of soil from Tibet to India

Kalon tripa, Dr. Lobsang Sangay walks on Tibetan soil at TCV, near Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala, India, 26th October 2011. Photo: TPI

Dharamshala: - The Tibetan contemporary artist Tenzing Rigdol has transported 20,000 kg of soil from Tibet to Dharamshala, northern India, to build a site-specific installation.

Constructed as a raised platform, the installation Our People, Our Land allows people to stand and walk on Tibetan soil. A microphone is also provided for visitors to express their feelings.

The work’s design was inspired by the Tibetan national flag and the history of Tibet. It was inaugurated this morning by Kalon Tripa (political leader) Lobgsang Sangay.

Prior to the opening ceremony, Rigdol offered a sample of the soil to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence. He reported that his Holiness was delighted to touch the soil, and that he used his finger to write in it Tibetan letters for ‘Tibet’

At TCV, a crowd of monks, nuns, teachers, staff and other Tibetans touched and walked on the installation and made prostrations. They also prayed tearfully and spoke about their feelings for their homeland.

On 18 September 2008, Rigdol’s father, Norbu Wangdu – a refugee in the United States - passed away. His dearest wish was to visit Tibet before he died. Unfortunately, this did not come to pass.

Rigdol took inspiration from his father’s wish, his own sense of helplessness and the longing of Tibetans in exile to return to their country.

The installation’s location is significant to the artist, as Dharamshala - also known as Little Tibet - is the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile and home to the largest Tibetan population outside of Tibet.

In a press release, the organization Face of Tibet said, “The dangerous journey taken to transport the soil, which encompasses the borders of many countries and their numerous checkpoints, is in itself significant and raises questions about border control and the nature of sovereignty.

“Rigdol’s installation provides a form of resistance against authoritarian power, by giving voice to those who have been uprooted from their land. In many ways, it enables the displaced to return home.

Tenzing Rigdol was born in 1982 in Kathmandu, Nepal, to a Tibetan refugee family. His work encompasses many media, including painting, sculpture and video. He is trained both in Tibetan and Western art traditions. He currently lives and works in New York.

When asked, at the press conference which concluded the event, where the soil came from and how it was transported, Rigdol said a documentary has been made of the process, which will be screened at a later date.

The installation will remain at TCV for three days, after which the Tibetan public will be welcome to take samples of the soil.

At the press conference, Lobsang Yeshe, a monk from Kirti monastery in Dharamsala, suggested that it would be fitting to distribute the soil to Tibetan settlements across India. At present, there are no arrangements to do so, but Yeshe suggested that more soil could be brought and distributed in the future.

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