I met Dolma this September. Brilliant and extremely talented, she is an artist trying to make ends meet. “A part-time artist and full-time mother”, she described herself.
The Artist’s Beginnings
Dolma’s parents are Tibetan, living in exile in Nepal. Dolma grew up in Nepal and learnt the old art of Tibetan Thangka, trusting that she will be able to make a living selling her paintings.
Her beautiful paintings attracts tourists, locals, monks and students. However, times are hard and people have little money to spare for art.
Dolma met, fell in love with, and married Karma, another Thangka painter. Together they moved to Dharamshala, India with their two beautiful daughters.
The Mother’s Dilemma
Dolma and her family rents a small room in Dharamshala. It barely fits the 4 of them. Despite that, it is homely, cosy and beautifully decorated with hanging Thangka art across all four walls. Their room is versatile, tripling up as a dining area, prayer hall, and bedroom.
Dharamshala is home to a small and close-knit Tibetan community. Tibetan culture is diminishing in Tibet due to China, but it remains preserved and closely guarded in India and Nepal. Here, Dolma believes that her young daughters can properly study the Tibetan language, arts, culture, and principles.
Tibetans are fiercely proud of their lineage. Even though the Tibetans born in India are given the option to be Indian citizens, most of them choose to retain their Tibetan refugee status.
Tibetan refugees face numerous difficulties. They are unable to apply for government jobs and are not issued land lease documents. Their refugee status precludes them from applying for loans, passports or admission to Indian universities.
In standing for her country, she is sacrificing her daughters’ future.
I spent weeks with Dolma to learn the art of rudimentary Thangka. She is extremely talented, but the business has tremendously tough competition.
Every other shop in Dharamshala sells Tibetan ornaments, paintings and food, and stiff competition is keeping prices low. If she is fortunate, there would be foreigners like myself inquiring about lessons.
While business is bustling during peak tourist seasons, in the winter from November to March, Dharamshala becomes devoid of tourists as the cold keeps them away.
I hope to give my friend Dolma and her family some hope. If you are interested in Thangka Art or would like to show her some support, you can check out the online shop OurBlissfulCommunity on Etsy.