Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - Page 16 News List

Free spirits

With a lineup of performances, film screenings, a photo exhibition and lectures, the inaugural Free Tibet Festival presents a cornucopia of Tibetan culture

By Ho Yi  /  Staff Reporter

Kelsang Chukie Tethong, a celebrated Tibetan folk singer who devotes herself to preserving Tibetan folk music and ancient tunes.

Photo Courtesy of Dark Eyes Performance Lab

Each year, Taiwan Friends of Tibet (台灣圖博之友會) arranges two guided group tours of Dharamshala, India, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, to foster cross-cultural exchanges. Poet and theater director Hung Hung (鴻鴻) went on one such trip in April last year, and on returning home decided to mount a festival to introduce local audiences to Tibetan performance arts.

The result is Free Tibet Festival (2012圖博文化節), a collaboration between Dark Eyes Performance Lab (黑眼睛跨劇團), of which Hung Hung is the artistic director, and Taiwan Friends of Tibet.

“Tibetan culture [in China] has been seriously undermined under the Chinese occupation over the past 50 years ... But it is well preserved by the Tibetan exiles,” Taiwan Friends of Tibet president Chow Mei-li (周美里) said. “The Dalai Lama says that one of his missions is to preserve Tibetan culture because he believes that education and culture are essential to a nation’s survival.”

The festival boasts a diverse lineup of dance, music and theatrical performances, a photographic exhibition, film screenings and speeches by more than 40 artists, musicians and activists, most of whom come from the Tibetan community in Dharamshala.

Established in 1959, shortly after the Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts aims to keep the traditions of Tibetan performance arts alive. For their only show in Taipei, the institute’s performers will present a series of ritual and folk dances and music including shanak, a masked spiritual dance, and ngonpai don, a ritual performance of purification.

World-renowned Tibetan folk singer Kelsang Chukie Tethong will take to the stage on March 3 with a performance of traditional Tibetan folk music.

Festival Notes

What: Free Tibet Festival (2012圖博文化節)

When: Today through March 11

Where: Venues include Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre (牯嶺街小劇場), 2, Ln 5, Guling St, Taipei City (台北市牯嶺街5巷2號), Howard Civil Service International House (福華國際文教會館), 30, Xinsheng S Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市新生南路三段30號), Taipei National University of the Arts — Dance Theater (國立台北藝術大學舞蹈廳), 1 Xueyuan Rd, Taipei City (台北市學園路1號) and The Wall (這牆), B1, 200, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路四段200號B1)

Admission: Prices vary. Tickets can be purchased through NTCH ticketing and online at

On the Net:

Born and raised in exile, the three brothers who make up protest rock band JJI Exile Brothers will play at The Wall (這牆) on Feb. 29, joined on the bill by Taiwanese Aboriginal folk icon Panai (巴奈) and rapper Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓).

In light of the recent wave of self-immolations by Buddhist monks and nuns calling for Tibet’s liberation and the return of the Dalai Lama, the festival organizers hope the cultural event will draw public attention to the grim situation that many Tibetans face under China’s repressive rule.

“The festival offers Taiwanese people a chance to think about the atrocities committed by China’s communist regime,” Chow said. “Since exchanges between Taiwan and China have become increasingly frequent, we really should get to know our next-door neighbor better and recognise its true totalitarian face.”

As part of the festival, SPOT — Taipei Film House (光點台北) will screen 16 fictional and documentary works by Tibetan directors as well as filmmakers from Taiwan, India, Europe and the US.

A prominent theme of the mini film festival is ecological destruction on the Tibetan Plateau.

The Free Tibet Festival opens today with a photo exhibition at Cafe Philo (慕哲咖啡), located at 3 Shaoxing N St, Taipei City (台北市紹興北街3號). The exhibition offers visitors a glimpse of Tibetan life before China took over the country in 1959. Most of the photographs on display come from the family album of Chow’s husband Khedroob Thondup, a nephew of the Dalai Lama.

In junction with the photo exhibit, a series of lectures will be given by guest speakers including Tenzin Tsundue, an award-winning poet and writer known for his one-man protests that involved him holding a banner that read “Free Tibet: China, Get Out” when former premier of China Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) visited India in 2002 and 2005, respectively.

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