In 1959 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet escaped from his Chinese occupied homeland to India, inspiring 1,30,000 of his countrymen to follow him. Working hard to rebuild their lives and preserve their distinctive and timeless culture and lifestyle, these people, from difficult beginnings, have become arguably the most successful refugee community in the world whilst continuing the struggle for Tibet's freedom in exile.

In Tibet itself over one sixth of the remaining population of six million died as a direct result of Chinese rule, and Chinese immigrants now outnumber native Tibetans. The unique and deeply spiritual heritage of the country has been systematically destroyed, suppressed and denigrated; more than 6,000 of Tibet's ancient monasteries and temples were reduced to rubble. The mysterious, medieval and magical Tibet of myth and legend, with its rich culture and Buddhist-centred society, no longer exists. These photographs are a glimpse of Tibet in exile; the struggle for survival of a culture recreated in India and Nepal; a record of the resilience, humour and above all strength of faith of the Tibetan people gathered around the charismatic and remarkable figure of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.'

Diane Barker

Nuns from Shugsep Nunnery at Kalachakra Initiation, 1994
Nuns from Shugsep Nunnery at Kalachakra Initiation, 1994

Diane Barker is born in 1952 in Worcestershire and was educated at the University of East Anglia where she studied History of Art, and later at Birmingham School of Art and Design, where she received an MA in Visual Communication for a photographic project on landscape. Diane has been exhibiting widely as a painter since 1986 in London and around the UK in both solo and group shows. She was inspired to begin documenting the Tibetan exile community in photographs after time spent with a small group of refugees in Sikkim in 1992. Her photographs were accepted and her work encouraged by 'Tibet Images' and through them her pictures have appeared in many magazines and books, been used by numerous charities and campaigning organisations, and also featured in exhibitions, audio-visual presentations and a National Curriculum education pack.

Young nuns at the monastery door, Kathmandu, Nepal
Young nuns at the monastery door, Kathmandu, Nepal


Free Spirits: Tibet in Exile exhibition was held at the Piramal Gallery of NCPA, Bombay from August 18-28, 1999

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