Perhaps as students at a university fortunate enough to be visited by the Dalai Lama, it would be wise for us to educate ourselves concerning the history of the Tibetan people and their struggles, apart from Brad Pitt’s dramatization of it in Seven Years in Tibet. Yes, Brad Pitt is incredibly good-looking and the movie seemingly acts as a tribute to that handsome visage in that he remains gorgeous even frost-bitten, climbing up a mountain for the majority of the movie. But a non-fictional display showing the real, unadulterated personal experiences of people in Tibet is on display on the second floor of the Richter Library and it shouldn’t be missed.
Although widely publicized in the innumerable E-Veritas emails we University of Miami students receive on a weekly, seemingly daily basis, the art exhibition of photographic collections and personal vignettes describing the history of Tibet (in effect, why we love the Dalai Lama so much) entitled, “A Long Look Homeward” has probably not been visited by many. This is a shame though, as the exhibition is nevertheless awe-inspiring.
Tibet was a free and independent country with the Dalai Lama serving as the spiritual head as well as government leader until 1949 when China invaded the country. The Chinese government attempted to force the Tibetan people into conformity, destroying their religious artifacts, culture and ultimately attempting to destroy their national identity. They turned parts of Tibet-a country called by the Dalai Lama, “our land of snow”- into nuclear test sites and a dumping ground for nuclear wastes. In one of their reform movements, they attempted to “re-educate” the monks and nuns. Basically, this “re-education” was an attempt to have them denounce the Dalai Lama and everything their religion stood for.
Over one million Tibetans died from the Chinese oppression due to execution, torture, hunger, or labor camps. The Tibetan military responded with a guerilla movement to resist Chinese rule, while 100,000 Tibetans escaped to neighboring friendly countries such as India. Escape included hiking up mountains of snow for weeks. Many of the photographs were grotesque, showing deformed feet that suffered frostbite.
The exhibit is a realistic showing of what the Tibetan people have suffered. Today, because of China’s encouragement of their people to migrate into the country, Tibetans are a minority in their own land.
On the last panel on display, the Dalai Lama had written of his preference for a free democracy in his country.
“There are many political systems of which the most viable is the one that gives people the opportunity to take collective responsibility and elect their own leaders.”
Exhibits like “A Long Look Homeward,” show us how important of a symbol the Dalai Lama is to his people, the honor it is to host him, and remind us of how lucky we are to live in a country where our freedoms are protected.
Melanie Klesse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.