The Telegraph

‘In The Steps Of The Buddha’
by Sudipta Basu
(The Telegraph. August 28, 1999)

A photo-exhibition on the Dalai Lama and his people focusses on the Tibetan community in exile. Sudipta Basu reports.

The NCPA in Mumbai is hosting an exhibition of photographs and a series of film shows on Tibet and Tibetan community in exile in India and Nepal this week. 'Free Spirit' is UK-based photographer Diane Barker's homage to Dalai Lama and his counrtymen who are working towards rebuilding their lives to preserve their lives to preserve their distinctive culture and lifestyle, and have become the largest and most successful refugee community the world over.

The need to photograph the Dalai Lama and his follower grew within Baker when she came upon his autobiography, My Land And My People. 'My heart seemed to explode within me. Reading him was a spiritual experience. I knew I had to meet him,' says Barker. Her prayers were answered in a year's time when she was commissioned by Tibet Images, a photo library in London, to shoot pictures of the Dalai Lama and his people for a book titled The World Of Dalai Lama.

'Photographing him, and his people was like a meditation. When I photographed them, I simply looked. My mind switched off, and gradually, I found myself getting more and more fascinated,' she says. Barker's exhibit ranges from photograph of a young reincarnated lama looking after a wounded pigeon, to prayer offerings at Dharamsala, ruddy-faced young nuns, to amateur Tibetan Opera performers to the newly arrived Tibetan refugees and their political sloganeering.

A landscape painter for 13 years, Barker turned to photography because she found that the medium of watercolour painting was making her more and more introverted. 'With the camera I have overcome my shyness. After all, with the instrument you always find yourself jostling with people,' says Barker.

After the exhibit, she is ready to do more on Tibet, but this time she is keen on photographing the people of Tibet in Tibet, rather than those in exile. The other life that interests her is the one of Tibetan nomads, 'simply for the sheer hardships that the people face'.

To complement the exhibition, Friends of Tibet (INDIA), an Indo-Tibet friendship organisation, has brought a festival of Tibetan films to the city. These include Kundun, a Martin Scorsese film on the true story of the Dalai Lama and his daring struggle to lead his people at the time of intense social upheavel. Tibet in India and The Knowledge Of Healing are a couple of documentary films.

The first was shot during the inauguration of the new main monastery of the Drikung Kargu School of Tibetan Buddhism near Derah Dun. The film shows some rare lama dances historical footage that contextualises the Tibetan situation in exile. The other documentary deals with Tibetan medicine and its holistic approach.

Seven Years In Tibet, a feature film, is based on the book by Heinrich Harrer, featuring Brad Pitt in the lead role. It traces the adventurous escape of a prisoner of war from a POW camp in India, his arduous journey into Tibet and his subsequent friendship with the young Dalai Lama.