For the past two months World Artists for Tibet (WAT) organizers and participants have put on a variety of performances and exhibits around the world to bring attention to the human rights violations that are plaguing the Tibetan people. The energy and power that we have all generated has been inspirational. I would like to share with you some of the events that have been going on around the world, as well as, inform you as to where we are right now and what are some of our goals for the next few months.
As many of you know, we have received responses from thousands of artists from over forty countries who were moved by our cause and chose to participate in some capacity. Communities around the world have been celebrating the Tibetan culture, while simultaneously, educating the public about the threat to it. Given the feedback and information that I have received thus far from various organizers around the world, we estimate that over a million people have been directly exposed to WAT events. Additionally, over five million have received invitations in the mail to an event, and fifty plus million people have been exposed to WAT through the hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television coverage.
I have been fortunate enough to be a witness to the unfolding of this process from the birth of the idea, two and a half years ago, through its manifestation this past July and August. Not in my wildest dreams, could I have conceived, the magnitude and vastness of our joined vision.
The events began on June 30, 1998 with WAT opening night gala in New York. This was the first event of sixty seven created for the New York area alone. To a packed room of over 450 artists, human rights activists and Tibetans, Harry Wu, Yoko Ono, Robert Thurman, Rinchen Dharlo and others, spoke about the Tibetan cause and what we can do about it. Performers including Dadon, Nawang Khechog, the World Artists for Tibet Band, Mimi Garrard Dance Theater and Dharma Bums performed to the enthusiastic audience as WAT was inaugurated. (video footage from the event may be viewed on our website shortly)
Across the U.S. and throughout the world, hundreds of events were presented by the WAT community. While it is not possible to describe them all here, I would like to highlight a few events as they were reported to me by the organizers. Among the many different exhibitions and performances in California the one on August 2, in Santa Monica, organized by Bruria Finkel, was a perfect example of WATĺs vision of unity. Bruria arranged for an all day event where Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, performed at the Sacred Music Sacred Dance for World Healing. Here to a crowd of over 1000, choirs from several different religious orders joined the Monks to celebrate the Tibetan people. Tom Hayden was among the several speakers who addressed the crowd. In addition, Bruria and Marcos Lutyens got the City of Santa Monica to declare July and August as World Artists human rights months.
In Vancouver, Canada, gallery owner Ruth Payne, along with several others, put on a photographic exhibition at the Roundhouse Gallery, Vancouverĺs major art gallery. Twenty one dedicated and inspirational artists showcased their work. The exhibition was a great success, receiving significant community support, as well as media coverage. BBC broadcasted a radio interview with Kiku Hawks and James Riley who discussed the Tibetan cause and WAT. (excerpts from the interview can be heard on their website http://www.rcinet.ca/en/program/emission/vieart.htm
In Kito, Ecuador, Belgium artist and co-creator of WAT, Frank Liefhoogeĺs major installation of The Square of Equality was exhibited in the cityĺs major square. His exhibition of world unity and equality for all was welcomed and received great accolades by that community. (photos will be uploaded on the web as soon as we receive them)
In Sardinia, Italy, artists from several countries came together to create a mural on an eight story building. The artists, who had never met before, lived and worked together for two weeks to create their magnificent mural. (photo attached)
We are waiting to hear from organizers in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Poland, Chech Republic Russia, Brazil, and the Philippines just to name a few. We will keep you informed as we get the reports.
The Calendar of Events, certainly gave some sense of how grand this project had become. However, it only reflected a fraction of the many events that were going on around the world. In addition, while it is exciting to read about the various events around the world, it is very different to actually experience them. Last week I had the privilege to go to Holland and Belgium to experience first hand some of the exhibitions, performances that were created in collaboration with WAT. On a personal note, I would like to share with you my own thoughts and feelings of my experience.
I visited four cities, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels. The energy, love and feeling of unity present in these events was palpable. Walking in the streets of Rotterdam, escorted by my host and the main organizer Jim Chazan, the WAT logo greeted me in the various window shops around town. While I had been to many creative and magnificent events in New York City, this was somehow different. To fly to another part of the world and actually experience WAT just as we imagined it, was somewhat overwhelming. The following day was full of yet more surprises. I first went to an art exhibit at one of the galleries and then to a celebration at the gallery of the townĺs most well known artists Leo de Jong . It was a joyous and educational event. Leo and his wife, Sandra, opened their gallery to over one hundred and fifty people who came to hear about the Tibetan plight, wonderful music including singing by Namgyal Llhamo, and participate in an art auction where the proceeds went to a Tibetan refugee camp. What made this experience particularly moving to me was the reaction of the crowd both to me and to what they learned about Tibet. They welcomed me as if they had known me their whole lives. There was a clear sense of community among them and between us - the WAT participants. As Namgyal began to sing, the audience was mesmerized by her voice. They embraced her song and understood her words even though she sang in Tibetan. Their jubilation was contagious.
In Amsterdam I had the fortune to meet with Wilnah Molenaar who coordinated several dozen exhibitions and performances there. Although most of the exhibitions had closed, Wilnah showed me the extensive calendar of events for Amsterdam. With her untiring energy and warmth she took me to see the magical sculpture of a Buddha she created. This Buddha was sculptured on the earth with grass growing in his shape. Pure genius creation.
In Antwerp I had the pleasure of going to the Cultural Center in the heart of town where the first thing that greeted me, as I was approaching, were three huge yellow flags hanging from the building with Tibet printed in Black. Seeing those flags, in Belgium this time, again brought overwhelming feelings of community to me. The sense of oneness was everywhere. WAT posters were in the windows inviting people to come in and experience the exhibition in solidarity with the Tibetan people. Nineteen exceptional artists from several countries around the world using their creative power to express their support for the cause. One of the exhibits, Traces for Tibet, by Annique Mahieu, included photographs of hundreds of footprints from individuals who traced their footprints to bring attention to the missing Panchen Lama. The Cultural Center was scheduled to be closed in the summer, but Peter Horemans, the European WAT Coordinator, managed not only to keep it open, but to curate the most extraordinary exhibit.
In Brussels, Luc de Lairesse PACT Festival was the last stop for me. It is hard to put into words the extraordinary power of this performance. It included eighty classical performers from a dozen countries, who performed for five hours at the Royal Circus Theater. The performances included ballet dancers from Alvin Ailey, New York City Ballet, Merce Cunnignham, opera singers from Opera of Paris, violinists, pianists, and celloists. In addition, twenty six Tibetans from the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts dazzled the audience with their beautiful dance and song. The audienceĺs response was staggering with their cheers and standing ovation. After the show I had the opportunity to meet with many of the performers and to actually hear their excitement and gratitude for being given the forum to express their art in the service of this cause.
Needless to say, I came home full and humbled. Only two years ago this was a dream, today it is a reality. I knew we must share this with everyone who is involved and with those who will become involved in the future. Feeling and witnessing our one mind, one heart cannot be described, it must be experienced. Therefore, we are currently working on getting funds to update the website. The intention is to get as many video, audio, pictures and reports on the events from the participants around the world, to put up on the web so that all of us can get a feel for the project as a whole.
Everyone who has been involved, who wishes to share with the rest of the world about the events in their community, please mail any and all related material as soon as possible to our address:
World Artists for Tibet
We are also working on several other projects. We are in the process of putting together a CD which we will promote on the internet. We are working on the Childrenĺ human rights coloring book, and preparing for an art auction. More details will be forwarded as these projects progress.
Building on our success from this past summer, and since we are continuing to receive many inquiries from artists world-wide who are interested in getting involved, we will continue to provide support, and coordinate events on an ongoing basis.
We would love to hear from you. Please send us your suggestions, thoughts, feelings and experiences.
With great appreciation,