Prayerflags from Kyegu

by Michelle

impermanence: expressions of Kyegu, Tibet.
A photographic record, illustrated expressions of being there, and
responses to the 2010 earthquake by Jayne Shephard

11-24 April 2011,
drinks with artist 6pm Thursday 14 April
TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney

Thursday 14 April 2011 is the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that officially killed 2698 people in the town of
Kyegu in Yushu, Eastern Tibet. Another 100,000 people were left homeless, with the unofficial death toll estimated to be as high as 10,000. The quake reduced more than 90 per cent of the town’s buildings to rubble. Twelve month on, enduring the harsh climate, people remain without stable housing. Tibetan involvement has been excluded from the reconstruction and planning following the impact of the devastation. Many Tibetan families have refused to accept the government’s ‘offer’ of new, yet significantly smaller, reconstructed homes in exchange for their ancestral land.

Jayne Shepherd travelled to Kyegu in 2007 as part of a pilgrimage to eastern Tibet, the homeland of His Eminence Aenpo Rinpoche. I met Jayne at Dee Why a few months ago at a concert to raise funds for the earthquake. Her photographic exhibition aims to raise awareness for the community in Kyegu and to support the Kyegu Relief Fund. The public are invited to participate in the prayer flag installation by contacting the artist at You will be sent specially prepared rice paper on which to write your prayer or blessings. Amongst hundereds of other votives, my daughter Tegan has drawn pictures and written her own words. 25% of all sales of photographs and drawings is being donated to the Kyegu Relief Fund.

The Yushu area is known for its strong Tibetan identity, with Tibetans making up 97% of the population. Although Tibetan businesses dominated the area prior to the earthquake, there has been concern from the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that Tibetans who lost everything in the devastation and are trying to recover will be overwhelmed by Chinese economic migrants setting up businesses as the reconstruction continues. Yushu was once a centre of historical and cultural significance.

It’s hard to imagine a land so remote, or the despair of a people deprived of their spirit, their culture and political freedoms. Recent reports suggest that Chinese authorities have censored and confiscated more than 3000 copies of the video documentary, Hope in A Diasaster. The film was produced by monks in Kyegu, following the earthquake. In song and film it celebrates Tibetan unity by depicting how Tibetans from three provinces carried out relief and rescue work after the earthquake. Many Tibetans consider Amdo, Kham, and U-Tsang to be the three provinces that make up Tibet, although Beijing has almost entirely absorbed Kham and Amdo into the Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan.

500 Tibetans living in Nangchen have signed a petition for authorities not to detain or arrest the monks who produced the film. In the face of such brutal political repression, may the struggle for Tibetan independence thrive.