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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes in (PAGE 2 )

Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes in (Page 2 )

“All the other conservation projects I’ve seen are Westerners doing the artwork, locals fetching clay,” he said. “This is the first one where we train the locals.”
There were challenges. Painters in higher castes initially did not want artists in lower castes sitting on the scaffolding above them. And there were religious beliefs to accommodate. At the buildings, an abbot used a mirror to absorb the spirits of the gods in the statues and murals before the painting began; after the project is completed, the abbot is expected to release the spirits from the mirror so they can return.
Mr. Fieni’s approach to restoring the temples and monasteries has been contested. Christian Luczanits, a senior curator at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, which displays Himalayan art, said he blanched at what he saw when he traveled to Mustang in 2010 and 2012. Mr. Luczanits said that sufficient scholarship had not been done into the original paintings. Now, because of the new painting, any scholar wanting to study the originals must look at photographs rather than rely on what is present in the temple, he said.
“The temple now after restoration cannot be understood anymore without the previous documentation,” Mr. Luczanits said in an interview.
Last year, he made his opinion known at a contentious meeting at the palace in Lo Manthang. Among those present were Mr. Fieni, an abbot, the prince of Mustang and representatives of the American Himalayan Foundation, which gives financial support to many development projects in Mustang. (The foundation’s president, Erica Stone, said the total being spent on the building renovations in Lo Manthang alone was $2.58 million. An additional $768,000 had been spent for restoring the town wall and constructing drainage.)
There was vigorous debate, and the royal family and the abbot both backed Mr. Fieni. The ceremonial prince, Jigme Singi Palbar Bista, said in an interview that the buildings “are renovated very well.”
Thoroughly painting Thubchen Monastery would take another three to four years, but the project’s budget will run out this year. Mr. Fieni estimated there was a total of about 3,660 square feet of wall space to paint.
He said he was thinking about moving on to restoration projects in India or Myanmar with some of the painters he had trained here. In 2006 and 2007, he took five of them to work with him at a Tibetan monastery in Sichuan Province, in western China, a project that was never completed because the Chinese authorities shut down access to the area after a Tibetan uprising in 2008.