Artist shows real Tibet with traditional touches in modern design

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Publish Time: 2019-04-17 Author: From: Global Times

Nyema Droma and her dog Paipai at home in Lhasa, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Li Hao/GT

By the age of 18, Nyema Droma had drawn attention, as well as controversy, with her photography showing local Tibetan people's modern lives.

In a set of photos exhibited in London, one photo shows a lama holding a Coca Cola bottle, while another shows two men drinking Budweiser beer.

"My classmates from Western countries asked me if the coke and beer were props for the shoot," Nyema said, "but it is what we have every day in Tibet!"

That was when Nyema realized many people who had never been to the Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region held stereotypical views of the high-plateau region, and decided to show people the real Tibet.

At 21, she set up the Hima Alaya Studio, working on photography and fashion design.

Now 25 years old, Nyema has just finished organizing a photography competition in Lhasa. 

The activity aims to discover the Tibetan aesthetics that surround local people in their daily lives.

A monk named Nyima Norpo won first prize. "My identity [as a Tibetan monk] has brought me better experience in colors," the winner said.

The exhibition of the competition entries will be held in Chengdu, capital city of Southwest China's Sichuan Province and New York from April to May.

"It will be my first time in the US. It's so exciting," Nyema said, as her 3-year-old Old English Sheepdog Paipai, who was named after cartoon figure Popeye the Sailor, followed her.

Neyma has even bigger dreams related to Tibet's unique cultural heritage, and even the region's fragile ecology.

Sitting in front of portraits of Tibetans in the exhibition, Nyema told the Global Times her story.

Breaking stereotypes

Nyema was born in 1994 in Lhasa to a well-off family. Her father was a climber in the Tibet mountaineering team and has scaled Mount Qomolangma several times.

At the age of 8, Nyema's family moved to Chengdu, where she went to a foreign language school. There, she spoke Putonghua with schoolmates and learned English.

At school, her artistic talent quickly showed. A report in the Tibet Daily said that hair bows that the 13-year-old Nyema designed and made by hand had become popular among schoolmates.

At 18, she went to London for her higher education and in 2015 received her BA degree in Fashion Photography and Styling at the London College of Fashion.

In the last few years, she has held three photography exhibitions in the UK and published photos showcasing Tibet to the world. Currently, her exhibition "Performing Tibetan Identities: Photographic Portraits by Nyema Droma" is being held at the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University.

While taking pictures, Nyema said that she found it hard at the beginning to find the right balance.

"I felt that it was hard for the younger Tibetan generation to maintain tradition, as we have been influenced by media and all kinds of information from modern society. So during the transition period, it was a confusing situation," Nyema said.

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