Talk Back: Tibetan Comics Workshop

This Lhakar, I’m working on putting together a Comic Book Workshop at the Rubin Museum with other Tibetan students from Columbia. We’re all part of a group called Plateau Engage – essentially, we’re interested in organizing events in and around our school to generate discussions on…you guessed it: Tibet.

Why a Comic Book workshop? Well, did you know that Tibet has played a key role in Western pop literature since the 1930s?! The first paperback ever (Lost Horizon by James Hilton) is situated in Tibet. And many of the earliest comic books were inspired by his concoction of “Shangri-La.” As a result, you have Donald Duck in Tibet, Mickey Mouse in Tibet, Tintin in Tibet, Nazis in Tibet and the list goes on and on.

Yet, these were all made by Westerners and of course, portrayed Tibet inaccurately. The Comic Book workshop is our attempt at having a Tibetan narrative produced by Tibetans, reflecting all of our diverse experiences – ones that cannot be encapsulated by stories of monks or demons. We’ve seen how influential comics like Persepolis have been for educating millions about Iran (both through the comic and the movie remake), so it’s time we had our own version!

The Wall Street Journal came out today with an article about the exhibition that inspired this workshop. At the end of the exhibition, you’ll find our workshop is mentioned.

The (free) workshop is open to all Tibetans and will begin on February 11th and will be four sessions covering:

  • Comics on Tibet, including those on display at the Rubin Museum’s Hero, Villain, Yeti exhibit 
  • Story-telling through comics
  • Re-writing of Western comics about Tibet
  • Discussions and readings on Western and Chinese portrayals of Tibet

You don’t need to know how to draw or have any experience with storytelling! Just curiosity and courage!

Applications will be available through the Plateau Engage website (which will be launched by the end of the week). In the meantime, you can “like” us on Facebook.

As well, check out the interactive website for the Rubin exhibition!

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