Distance from Delhi: 1,781 km
Time difference: 30 minutes ahead of India
That Bhutan is unique is a well-known fact. Here’s one nation where the king drives a Reva before preaching the use of eco-friendly electric buses to his citizens, and the queen mother writes beautiful prose that brings alive the vibrant folklore of the mountain kingdom. No wonder their Gross National Happiness Index continues to intrigue people around the world. We began the Padosi Post series in another mountain country not far away, and with this peaceful capital we return to our millennial counterparts of the hills again. Here’s what the young ones are up to in this young country – over 60% of the population is below 30, imagine – and mind you, this innocence is the calm before coming of age.
(Please note: We’re skipping the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival on purpose, this here is a compilation dedicated to locals, not fancy networking events for international authors!)
Art As It Has Always Been
Whether you come by air or road, the first glance in any direction is rewarded with aesthetics that place the country somewhere between Himalayan Buddhist intricacy and European harmony. Bhutan is steeped in art. Photographer Parikshit Rao, who spent some time exploring the country’s prime art school located in Thimphu, recalls it with fond memories, “My visit to the National Institute of Zorig Chusum was one of the more fulfilling activities in Thimphu. Locally known as the ‘Painting School’, this is an invaluable place to witness the Himalayan kingdom’s artistic heritage and potential. Watching the highly-disciplined (and sometimes shy) students pursue one or more of Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts (includes painting, woodcarving, and clay-sculpting among others) was a testament to the importance placed on traditional values while empowering Bhutan’s future generations with unparalleled artistic skill.”
Art Post Democracy
The change, in the arts at least, started in 1998 with Asha Kama, a man who has come to be known as the ‘torchbearer of contemporary art in Bhutan’. Along with two other local artists he founded the Voluntary Artists’ Studio, Thimphu. VAST went on to mentor over a 1,000 young Bhutanese artists over the years, many of whom are now following their own artistic practices and helping the scene evolve in newer directions. At a time when people still wore the traditional gho and kira, VAST introduced exhibitions and art classes in the capital. Pema Tshering, a VAST alumni, recently started the first comic studio in the country, called Thimphu Comics. In collaboration with other artists they brought out a graphic novel called Jurwa and a comic called Garpa, both full of very promising artwork. There have been a number of photo campaigns as well, but check out this page dedicated to street fashion photography to take in the full impact of change.
From Reel To Animation
It’s quite unusual to find a rinpoche who is also a filmmaker and a writer, especially one like Khyentse Norbu who placed Bhutan on the world cinema map with highly impressive, well acclaimed work. His film Travellers & Magicians was a most poignant narrative, in fact the first film entirely shot in Bhutan. Films have come a long way since, and now Bhutan has its own festival called Beskop Tshechu Short Film Festival. Amongst its short film winners is Chand Bhattarai, a young artist and illustrator (and also a VAST alumni) whose animated films won accolades. His venture Studio Awake-can collaborated with Drukten Productions and came up with some pretty cool work.
Thimphu is a small town with a whopping 800 odd bars to its credit. Of these, the best-known happens to know its live music quite well. It’s called Mojo Park and was started by Kinley Wangchuk, who is something of a local legend if we hear right. He’s also the man behind Radio Valley, an extremely popular radio station that lets you request songs via Facebook. Thimphu may have taken a liking to western tunes, but the songs are very much in the local language Dzongkha. The band that gets everyone swaying is Misty Terrace, though if it is heavier stuff you’d like then go here to follow up on festivals like Painkiller 1.4. For the best of popular music follow M-Studio, a recording studio that is truly putting Bhutanese music out there, and for general updates on the local music scene click here.
Intrigued? Follow Yellow Bhutan to find out more about what some of the country’s most inspiring millennials are up to.
Image Credit: Click Here