‘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
'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
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
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.