Tibet in our mind: the impact of Tibetan culture on Czechs

Dalai Lama

Prague is currently hosting an exhibition reflecting the impact of Tibet’s culture on the rest of the world, particularly on the Czech Republic. The exhibition called Tibet in our mind shows traditional Tibetan art as well as Tibet-inspired works by Czech artists. We asked the exhibition’s curator Zuzana Ondomišiová to tell us what’s on display and why Czechs are so fascinated by all things Tibetan.

“It is an exclusive collection of religious sacred and ritual art which has been loaned by a number of Czech institutions. There are statues of Buddhist iconographic images from the National Museum Náprstek’s Museum of Asian, African and American Culture and also religious paintings called Tanka from the National Gallery in Prague as well as other items borrowed from private collections. In another large hall, visitors will be able to view a collection of unique photographs taken in Tibet by two Czechs Josef Vaniš and Vladimír Sís in 1954. They were on their way to Tibet and they met and even photographed the young Dalai Lama on his way to Beijing to visit Mao Zedong. That was still before Tibetan culture was completely destroyed by Mao’s Cultural Revolution so the photographs are a unique document of the life and culture and the people of the time. There are also photographs taken by different photographers since the 1980s and visitors will also find a hall dedicated to his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama where there are photos documenting his seven visits to our country. Also –documenting the impact of Tibetan culture on Czech artists – we show the work of several contemporary artists and the famous photographer František Drtikol. Only in his case we are not showing his famous photos but his paintings. When he was older he took up Buddhist meditation and he produced some meditative paintings.”

Czechs are generally fascinated by Tibet and its culture. Why do you think that is?

“There are several reasons. We all search for things spiritual and have long been inspired by Buddhist culture as such. Also the visits by his Holiness to the Czech Republic and the visits by Tibetan lamas who come here to lecture and meditate with the public - all that raises interest in the life and culture of Tibet.

There is, of course, also a political reason – we are a small nation and have experienced Nazism as well as Communism. And thirdly, our people want to travel and discover unknown places and we look for these places not only outside our borders, in foreign lands but also in our mind.”

This exhibition is leading up to March 10th to the worldwide initiative Flag for Tibet. The Czech Republic has marked it for several years now. Do you know what’s in the pipeline this year?

“Because this year we commemorate 50 years since the Dalai Lama was forced to leave his country I am sure that several hundred town halls and institutions will join in the initiative and hoist the Tibetan flag in a symbolic show of support for the Tibetan cause, in support of dialogue on the future of Tibet in the Chinese state. Last year it was 400 town halls and we think that this year it will be even more. There are also many events taking place around the Czech Republic – there is a festival of Tibetan culture in Ostrava and Pardubice, different parts of Prague are preparing special events on March 10th and Amnesty International has called a peaceful demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy in Prague.

For more information on the Tibetan exhibition and related events go to www.tibetmysli.cz