THE INVISIBLE SIDE OF PARADISE
Paradise lost and the fable of Shangri-La. Snowfields and plastic, spirituality and satellite TV, the cross and the stupa. Is there another world at the edge of the world? Or simply a variant of our own?
An original portrait of Tibet by an Italian anthropologist and a British photographer, who set off from the remote valley between China and Burma identified as the idyllic setting imagined in 1933 in Lost Horizon by James Hilton, who in fact had never set foot out of London. Thanks to the world of cinema and literature, that high-altitude Eden has become the very archetype of peaceful, smooth co-existence between different beings in the sacred mountains.
And the two explorers ask themselves: how real was that description? Is it still real today? Has there ever actually been anything real about it?
What is certain is that this “world apart”, as it exists today, is in danger, threatened by the commercialisation of traditional values induced – sometimes with the best of intentions – by tourism, and the dam-building plan drawn up by the Chinese government.
The texts and photos show the multiple, sometimes cruel, faces of a still-ancient world, disoriented by events common to the rest of the world, aspects that continue - in spite of the strong pull of its traditions - to take root within its borders: money, consumption, possession. Modern manias or needs that coexist here with the belief that the pink salt mined on the high terraces was brought there by the gods, during age-old ceremonies featuring long blades brandished in order to exorcise evils: such as gossip, able to contaminate its victims and engender all manner of conflict within society.
At a disenchanted glance, Tibet appears a community of people who resemble so many others, more than we might like: reluctant, perhaps, to entirely abandon ancient wisdom and customs, because of the formidable guardians that loom ever-large and keep watch over them here, perpetually visible and present: the Great Mountains of the Earth.
Author: Giovanni Da Col and Luke Duggleby
Published by: Egon, Montura Editing
Photos: Luke Duggleby
Year of publication: 2009