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  • StartFragmentDiaspora Smile, 50th Anniversary of Tibetan in ExileBy BhanuwatJittivuthikarnMarch 10, 2009 marks the50th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day, a day in 1959 when theTibetan people rose up to defend their country and their leader against the militaryaggression of the People’s Republic of China. A week after this historicUprising, Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal leader of the six million Tibetansescaped into exile where he has remained ever since. From 5-18 January2009, I traveled to Saranarth, India to documenting the life of 45 elderlyTibetan refugee age between 60-80, whom for the first time in their life willhave chance to receive private audience from His Holiness Dalai Lama. This project is organized and sponsor by Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation. This projectactually begins from idea of Mr. Tenzin Losel a Tibetan socialworker. Who have strong intention to bring these old Tibetan from his hometowna refugee camp in Main Pat to Dalai Lama teaching in Saranath.  Ialways believe that photography at its best has the capacity to transform theway people think and create social change, It can bring advocacy by perform itsrole as an evidence of injustice or inequity and be alternative voice. I alsobelieve that simple but powerful image can empower native community andstrengthen their identity to be able to express of who they are, which I regardas important and crucial for cultural survival in globalize world. So my intention frombeginning is to document Tibetan culture for the purpose of betterunderstanding between Thai and Tibetan people. ManySerious works on Tibet often portray it as a Shangri-La on the verge ofextinction; a semi-colony with its unique culture being destroyed by theChinese and the process of modernization. In such pessimistic scenarios, whatis ignored is the creative potential of Tibetan people themselves to adjust and survivein a changing world. Most westernprofessional photographer work on Tibet issue is concentrates on victims, orthe unfortunate. But without the compassionate purpose that such a project isexpected to serve often result in a dissociated point of view with anunsentimental empathy with the photograph’s subjects. . However It is also arguable that it is not onlyWesterners who have exoticised Tibet and the Tibetans; the Tibetan diasporastoo have invested heavily in such neo-orientalist representation strategies fortheir own tactical purposes. To successful foster and maintain a distinctivenational identity among disparate groups inside exile community. To ensuretheir way of life is not swallow by the fast changing world.   So I try to avoidany kind of sentimental voyeurism of the western practice. In fact from thebeginning I never have idea that these people are miserable in contrast I feelthat they have such a rich experience in their life that I should learn from. I want to showTibetan dignity in their willingness to leave their homeland into anothercountry, to show their courage and their spirit and, not least, to demonstratehow can that enrich our life.  So we live together as friend who collaborative witha simple smile to one another as there seem to be impossible to use verbalcommunication, as I cannot speak Tibetan. However with their expression I trylisten to their story and try to understand their life, as there is meaning intheir life that should not to be forget. I wait until I feel that they have trusted Ime, then I ask for permission to photograph them. Surprisingly many of them areso excited and just stood before my camera and smile as they always do whenmeet me.   Back in Bangkokwhile I was editing the work, I realized that I here I had a group of powerfulportraits; that in front of my camera, I had had very old people who had livedexperiences of great intensity already. These seemingly simple andstraightforward portraits depict with force their pain and their dignity.However with full of faith they are able to show us that the people who haveless materialize can be blissful in their believe and their life. Receivingprivate blessing from His Holiness Dalai Lama is their last quest in life, nowmany of them are already renounced theworld and prepares themselves for hereafter.EndFragment