Karma Sichoe, a Tibetan painter of sacred images (thangka) and a political activist, will visit the University of Arkansas campus from April 11-14. He will hold two public appearances on April 12 & 13.
WHO IS KARAMA SICHOE? Karma Sichoe has led an extraordinary life, and his visit here offers our community the opportunity to interact with one of the prominent figures of the Tibetan community in exile. Orphaned early in his life, Sichoe was raised in the Tibetan Children’s Village, a school system founded in India by Jetsun Pema, the sister of the Dalai Lama. Very soon, Sichoe became aware of his artistic inclinations, and ultimately completed his apprenticeship with two highly regarded Tibetan masters of sacred painting (Tibetan, “thangka”): Rinzin Peljor and Tashe Dorjee. Sichoe, who lives in Dharamsala, India, the home of the Dalai Lama, also became active in the Tibetan struggle for independence. He was a founding member of Students for a Free Tibet in India and was one of six participants in the 1998 hunger-strike for Tibetan independence in New Delhi. Sichoe’s hunger strike endured for 47 days, at which time he was finally taken to an Indian hospital where he was fed and ultimately recovered.
WHERE & WHEN CAN I SEE KARMA SICHOE? He will hold two public events. The first one is a panel discussion with Professor Sidney Burris, Geshe Dorjee, and Craig Pasquinzo, entitled "Art and Literature in Post-Conflict Societies: A Panel Discussion on the Tibetan Community in Exile." It will be held on Tuesday, April 12 in Kimpel Hall 105 at 4:00 pm.
The second event will occur on Wednesday, April 13 in the Honors Student Lounge, 1st floor, Gearhart Hall (formerly Ozark Hall) at 6:00 pm (food and drink available). This event is designed to allow our students and the general public to have an open discussion with Sichoe on the topics of political resistance and Tibetan identity. We will expand the conversation to benefit from Sichoe's experience as we here in America attempt to grow a community based on compassion, diversity, and fairness.
Both events will begin with a beautiful 10-minute documentary that has been done on Karma Sichoe by The International Center for Mental Health and Human Rights.
WHY SHOULD I ATTEND THESE EVENTS? Sichoe's visit to the University of Arkansas is important for a number of reasons. Northwest Arkansas has had a long history of hosting visits from great Tibetan teachers in the monastic tradition. This began in the early eighties and culminated on May 11, 2011 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited our campus. But while the monastic tradition is very important to Tibetan identity, most Tibetans are neither monks nor nuns, and this broadly diversified group has compelling perspectives to offer both to their own community and to the world at large. Tibetans living in exile are citizens of one of the world's youngest democracies (a modified democracy in exile, set up by the Dalai Lama in conjunction with the Indian government); they belong to one of the few authentically nonviolent cultures left on the planet; and they are looking to the future with both hope and skepticism concerning Western technology and modernism. They are conscious curators of their culture; they represent an array of political opinions about their own country, its future, and its relation to China; and they understand political resistance, the costs that it exacts from the individual, and the sacrifices it requires.
Karma Sichoe is also trained in the classical Tibetan painting tradition called "thangka." (Pictured below.) To learn the art, Sichoe underwent an apprenticeship with two masters of the tradition, becoming familiar not only the painting techniques, but the meditation discipline required as well. Since then, he has also delved into more self-expressive forms of painting, and to develop in this direction, he has turned toward many of the Western masters. His painting is rich with color, dramatic in form, and coherent in its vision of a humanity united in its struggle for well-being and happiness.
Karma Sichoe's life and work represent a unique perspective on the complexity of our modern world. Self-expression, artistic integrity, altruism, identity, nationalism, and protest—these are not uniquely Tibetan concerns, but they are concerns that Sichoe has worked over his lifetime to understand and balance. His visit here to the University of Arkansas will offer our students, faculty, staff, and citizens a rare chance to engage in conversation a man who has thought long and hard about these issues, and worked to build a life that is true to each of them.
His visit here is simply not be missed.